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MOSCOW, December 26. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. Despite the pardon granted to former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, the Russian Supreme Court has decided to reopen his case. Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev on Wednesday submitted to the court presidium a proposal to reopen the first criminal case against Khodorskovsky and Lebedev in connection with new circumstances. The court may lift the penalty of 17 billion rubles from Lebedev and Khodorkovsky, which will remove obstacles to Khodorkovsky’s return to Russia. The former tycoon said he would not return home as long as a court order that he pays 17 billion rubles ($521 million) in tax arrears remains in place.
The Vedomosti newspaper quotes Supreme Court press secretary Pavel Odintsov as saying that the review of the sentence of the Meshchansky court is linked with the resolution of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In July 2013, the ECHR announced a ruling on the appeal of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev against the 2005 sentence, according to which they had been found guilty of fraud and tax evasion. In October, the ECRH decision entered into legal force, Odintsov recalls, and in this case the Supreme Court chairman must initiate a revision of the court ruling.
Strasbourg did not find essential irregularities in the charges against the businessmen, but ruled that the court order that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev pay 17 billion rubles in Yukos tax arrears was wrong.
The case revision does not necessarily mean that the sentence would be changed, Vedomosti stresses. “It is within the competence of Russian courts to decide how to correct the violations. However, there is no reason why the Supreme Court shouldn’t correct an obvious mistake with the recovery from Khodorkovsky and Lebedev of the damage that has already been collected from Yukos by commercial courts,” says lawyer Robert Zinovyev. “In this case the astronomical debt will no longer be hanging over Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.”
Arriving in Berlin, Khodorkovsky said that this debt impedes his return to Russia, because he, as a debtor, might be not allowed in the future to leave the country. On Wednesday, he told Vedomosti through his representatives that he welcomed the Supreme Court decision and hoped that “the bureaucratic procedures will not be too long and will allow Platon Lebedev to quicker gain liberty.”
Yukos former chief lawyer Dmitry Gololobov, quoted by the newspaper, advises not to be “overly optimistic” and not to expect from the Supreme Court a radical revision of the made decisions. This move is more likely being taken in order to entirely get rid of all appeals filed by the lawyers of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, closing the matter at the level of the final instance, Gololobov believes. And even if the Supreme Court cancels the order obligating the businessmen to pay 17 billion rubles, the third Yukos case is not closed and its investigation might be activated any time, Gololobov says.
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