The Moscow City Court has commuted the sentence to former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev to 11 years. Thus they will be released two years earlier the term that had been passed on them by the Khamovniki Court. The prison term reduction has become possible because of the softening of the RF Criminal Code penalties for persons who have committed economic crimes.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily recalls that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev - the former heads of the YUKOS oil company and the Menatep bank - were arrested in 2003 on charges of fraud and tax evasion. In 2005, they were sentenced to nine years in prison each, but later the Moscow City Court reduced the term to 8 years for both. Shortly after that, another criminal case was opened against them, and in late 2010 they were sentenced – this time for the theft of oil and laundering of proceeds from the oil sale - to 14 years in prison each. Soon, the Moscow City Court against reduced their term - this time by one year. Thus, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were to be released in 2016.
Having stated that all the decisions on the case of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev “is the trampling of common sense and abuse of people," Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant noted that he insists on the termination of criminal prosecution of the defendants as illegal and unwarranted, the Kommersant daily emphasises. The same as before, the lawyer referred to the fact that the charges under Articles 160 and 174-1 of the RF Criminal Code (theft of oil and laundering the proceeds from its sale) are unfounded.
Substantiating this statement, the lawyer said that the prosecution side is based on the wrong belief that “the purchase of crude oil from Russian producing companies and its subsequent resale on external markets at higher prices could inflict direct damage on oil producers.” “But the latter had received over 3 billion roubles in profit!” Vadim Klyuvgant said. “How somebody could have stolen this oil from them?” Accordingly, the lawyer also found groundless the charges of legalisation of the proceeds, because “they were not illegally obtained.”
The lawyers have calmly taken the court decision. “Two years taken off by the Presidium of the Moscow City Court two years – it’s a little relief,” said lawyer Klyuvgant who promised to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court of Russia.
The court’s decision came as a surprise even to those who have closely followed the ups and downs of the Yukos case trial, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper writes. Earlier this week, journalist Andrei Karaulov released on TV Channel Five the film “The Target for Darts,” in which he attempted to prove that Khodorkovsky was involved in 12 murders. Many interpreted the appearance of the film as a sign that the position of justice on the case of the former Yukos executives remains the same.
The trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev was mentioned not once at RF President Vladimir Putin’s big press conference on Thursday, emphasises the publication. Answering a question, related to the case, the RF president once again said that the case against the oil company executives is not political, noting that he had no personal motives to severely punish the businessmen. “Don’t politicise the issue,” he said, adding “I’m confident that, in accordance with the law, everything will be OK and Mikhail Borisovich (Khodorkovsky) will be released from prison, may he keep healthy.” “As for Mikhail Borisovich, there is no personal prosecution here. Everybody is trying to present a political case out of it... Why, did Mikhail Borisovich engage in politics, was he a deputy or a party leader? He never was. It was a purely economic crime,” he underlined.