MOSCOW, March 12. /TASS/. The former head of the oil company Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was a fraudster whose entourage was involved in contract killings, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.
"Khodorkovsky is a fraudster. His people were involved not just in fraudulent transactions, but in murders," Putin told TASS in an interview for the project entitled "20 Questions with Vladimir Putin".
He stressed that Khodorkovsky’s personal involvement in contract killings had not been proven, but at the same time voiced doubts that the Yukos security service staffers were "killing people at their own initiative."
"Do you think that staffers of the corporate security service were killing people at their own initiative, of their own volition? I do not think so. It just does not work that way. However, if it’s not proven, then it’s not proven. But his other illegal activities were proven, hence his prison sentence," Putin said.
Khodorkovsky’s criminal cases
In May 2005, a district court in Moscow sentenced Khodorkovsky and businessman Platon Lebedev to nine years in jail for fraud and tax evasion. The Moscow City Court later reduced the sentence to eight years. In another case, a district court in Moscow found both guilty of embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced them to 14 years each. The Moscow City Court’s presidium later reduced the sentence to 11 years.
In December 2013, Khodorkovsky was pardoned by the president and released from the penitentiary on December 20, 2013. In January 2014, Russia’s Supreme Court reduced Lebedev’s penalty to 10.5 years, in fact, to a term he had already served by then, so his release followed shortly.
In 2015, Russia put Khodorkovsky on the international wanted list on the suspicion of complicity in the killing of Nefteyugansk Mayor Vladimir Petukhov and an attempt on the life of businessman Yevgeny Rybin. The investigators linked Petukhov’s killing with his demand Yukos should pay concealed taxes and duties. The assassination attempt on Rybin’s life followed, according to the investigators, the lawsuits he filed against Yukos demanding compensation for the damage caused by the oil company’s unlawful activities. Leonid Nevzlin (a former co-owner of Yukos), Alexei Pichugin (former chief of the Yukos security service) and others were convicted of these crimes earlier.
Episode 12 of the video interview is available at https://putin.tass.ru/en.