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BERLIN, December 21, (ITAR-TASS). Reporters who have been waiting for former YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, pardoned by President Vladimir Putin this week, outside Berlin’s Adlon Hotel since early morning are beginning to leave after reports that his parents have arrived in the city but no one saw them entering the hotel or their son leaving it, at least through the main entrance.
Actually, rumours that Khodorkovsky is staying at this hotel have not been confirmed so far. Reporters crowded in front of its main entrance after former German Chancellor Hans-Dietrich Genscher had been spotted leaving it. He had greeted Khodorkovsky at Berlin’s airport and, as it transpired later, had played a big role in helping him come to Berlin.
Genscher was federal chancellor almost continuously from 1974 to 1992. He often appears in public wearing a yellow blazer, which symbolises the “brand” colour of the Free Democratic Party, of which he is a member.
Years of his political and diplomatic career have earned him the reputation of a shrewd old fox. Experts particularly note his achievements in so-called shadow diplomacy. In the summer of 1989, he was pressing for visas for citizens of East Germany, who had fled the communist regime to Poland and Hungary. And he was also instrumental in getting Khodorkovsky freed from prison where he had served ten years. However, his role in this process remains undisclosed.
Genscher thanked Putin for having met with him on two occasions, and incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel credited her predecessor for his backstage efforts.
However the journalists never saw either Genscher or Khodorkovsky at or near the Adlon.
Khodorkovsky was flown from St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport to Berlin on December 20, but he will not have to pay for the flight by a private jet, an official from the company OBO Bettermann, which owns the plane, said in Menden.
“It was a humanitarian act requested by Hans-Dietrich Genscher,” the official said, adding that Khodorkovsky would not be charged for the expenses.
OBO Bettermann is a family enterprise that employs about 3,000 people and is now building a plant in Russia to make.
Khodorkovsky will give a press conference at the Berlin Wall Museum (Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie) on Sunday, December 22, at 13:00 local time, where he will speak about his plans for the future.
Khodorkovsky was pardoned on December 20. His mother said she had learned about her son’s petition for pardon from mass media and hoped for his soonest release.
“We were completely unaware of the pardon until today. I am all ‘frozen’ and do not know what to say but hope that if the chief executive says something, it will happen,” she said.
Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he was happy that “the painful Khodorkovsky story has come to an end.”
“I can only say that I am very glad and happy that this long, painful and tragic story that cast shadow on many things and many people has come to an end. I am not prepared and I will not discuss who started it, how and why, or who is to blame because I am not a judge. I simply congratulate everyone concerned on its completion,” Lukin said.
The president’s Human Rights Council Chair Mikhail Fedotov also welcomed Putin’s decision to pardon Khodorkovsky.
“I can only welcome the president’s decision. He keeps his word. He has said many times that if Khodorkovsky files a petition for pardon, he will consider it,” Fedotov said.
In May 2005, Moscow’s Meshchansky Court found Khodorkovsky and his business partner, MENATEP CEO Platon 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 earlier.
“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 incriminated in the so-called third YUKOS case as defendants or suspects.