MOSCOW, January 23, 21:04 /ITAR-TASS/. The lawyers of former YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner MENATEP CEO Platon Lebedev said they would press for the annulment of a multibillion rouble fine for their defendants.
On Thursday, January 23, the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court commuted the verdict to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev but upheld the ruling ordering them to pay a fine of 17.5 billion roubles to the state.
“The defence will continue to use all legal mechanisms to annul these unlawful claims if no other reason than the fact that it does not allow Mikhail Borisovich [Khodorkovsky] to come to Russia. As long as the claims remain in effect, the ‘iron curtain’ may fall before him at any moment,” the lawyers said in a statement.
They disagreed with the court ruling and described it as “absurd.” “The European Court for Human Rights found these claims unfounded and inconsistent with law. Given this, the agreement to pay Mikhail Khodorkovsky compensation of 10,000 euros, awarded by the ECHR, looks ridiculous,” they said.
“The defence will continue to press for a revision by the Supreme Court of Russia of all unlawful verdicts in the YUKOS case… all efforts will be exerted to ensure that all those who were unlawfully convicted are freed as soon as possible and all unjustified verdicts are cancelled,” the statement said.
Khodorkovsky, who is now staying abroad, said on many occasions that he would return to Russia only of the Supreme Court annulled the multibillion rouble fine awarded to him earlier.
“I have no guarantee that I will be able to leave Russia afterwards. The Russian Supreme Court should reiterate the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that the lawsuit in the first YUKOS case against me and my friend Platon Lebedev has been dropped,” Khodorkovsky said.
After Khodorkovsky had been pardoned by President Vladimir Putin in late December 2013, he left for Germany.
The service of court bailiffs is carrying our proceedings started against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev on November 17, 2005 to collect over 17.3 billion roubles from them in favour of the state. As of the middle of 2011, about 133 million roubles had been collected from the sale of a plot of land, vehicles and shares belonging to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.
In May 2005, Moscow’s Meshchansky Court found Khodorkovsky and Lebedev guilty under several articles of the Russian Criminal Code, including fraud and tax evasion and sentenced them to nine years in prison. Later the Moscow City Court reduced the term to eight years.
Since the prison term begins from the time a person has been put in custody, Lebedev’s term would have ended in July 2011, and Khodorkovsky’s in October 2011.
However in February 2007, the Prosecutor General’s Office brought new charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, accusing them of having legalised 450 billion roubles and 7.5 billion U.S. dollars in 1998-2004 by stealing state-owned shares as well as embezzling oil and legalising earnings from its sale.
On December 30, 2010, Moscow’s Khamovnichesky District Court pronounced Khodorkovsky and Lebedev guilty of embezzlement and money laundering in a second criminal case and sentenced them to 14 years in prison.
Court Judge Viktor Danilkin said at the trial that “the guilt of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev is borne out by the proof examined during the judicial investigation.”
The judge proclaimed Khodorkovsky and Lebedev guilty of stealing oil from a producing company and of laundering ill-gotten funds.
At the same time, the court dropped certain criminal charged against the defendants due to the statute of limitation. Lebedev’s lawyer Konstantin Rivkin referred particularly to the episode concerning the theft of Eastern Oil Company (VNK) shares.
In May 2011, the Moscow City Court commuted the sentence for Lebedev and Khodorkovsky to 13 years. The verdict became effective.
The Moscow City Court also upheld the prosecutor's petition, cutting the amount of stolen oil by 130 million tonnes and its value by more than 68 billion roubles. The Moscow City Court’s presidium on December 20, 2012 reduced the sentence to 11 years.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sent to prisons in the Arkhangelsk region and Karelia, respectively. Their prison terms were to end in 2016.
On August 6, 2013, the Supreme Court cut it further to 10 years and 10 months so that Lebedev is to be set free in May 2014 and Khodorkovsky in August 2014.
Several former YUKOS to managers have been sentenced for various offences, including Leonid Nevzlin, Ramil Burganov, Vladimir Dubov, Svetlana Bakhmina, Vasily Aleksanyan, Alexei Kurtsin, Andrei Krasinov, and Vasily Shakhnovsky.
It was rumoured lately that Khodorkovsky might face new charges in a third criminal case against former YUKOS top managers suspected of money laundering, including former CEO Steven Theede.
“The investigation of the main YUKOS case is still underway. Eighteen YUKOS top managers have been put on the international wanted list as part of this investigation,” a well informed source told ITAR-TASS.
“However Khodorkovsky’s status in this criminal case has not been determined yet and no charges have been brought against him thus far,” he added.
In 2006, a criminal case was opened against Theede, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Misamore and managing adviser David Godfrey, and Group Menatep Ltd. Tim Osborne on charges of embezzlement or misuse of property and money laundering acquired illegally.
“Judging from the case files, they had colluded to embezzle YUKOS’ foreign assets. According to the investigators, they were credibly aware that one of the companies created by YUKOS in Holland owned a part of stock in several foreign companies. In order to take possession of these shares, Theede registered a special fund in the Netherlands in April 2005 and appointed himself, Misamore, Godfrey and Osborne as its directors. At their disposal were more than 10 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of assets in the form of cash, Eurobonds, corporate bonds, shares of industrial enterprises, portfolio investments in various foreign funds and money in trust management by trusts and foreign banks,” the source said.
“Subsequently, in order to conceal the illegal origin of the stolen property, a part of these shares was sold to other foreign companies,” the source added.
He said that “the criminal case on money laundering is being investigated as part of the main YUKOS case.”
However later informed sources told ITAR-TASS that neither Khodorkovsky nor Lebedev were involved in the so-called third YUKOS case as defendants or suspects.
On January 23, 2014, the Russian Supreme Court commuted Lebedev’s sentence to 10 years and 6 months, that is, the term he had actually served. Lebedev’s lawyer Larisa Vazerkina told ITAR-TASS he would be able to leave the colony in Velsk, Arkhangelsk Region in northern Russia, where he is serving his prison term on Thursday or Friday, January 24.
Larisa Znatnykh, the spokesperson for the State Penitentiary Service’s branch in the Arkhangelsk Region, said Lebedev would be released “on the day when the colony receives the original documents from court.”
Local sources said that Lebedev’s relatives were in Velsk and they had a car. Lebedev expressed the wish to “leave right away, quietly and with no pomp.