Wikileaks: Trial of Mikhail Khodorkovskiy

Mikhail Hodorkovskiy is a former YUKOS CEO, an oil tycoon who was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to eight years in jail for fraud two years later.

Analyst in Russian and Eurasian affairs Jim Nichol discusses in the following report the Russian government’s arrest of “oligarch” Mikhail
Khodorkovskiy in late October 2003 and other moves against his Yukos oil company. The background of the arrest and subsequent political and economic fallout are presented, as well as implications for Russia and U.S. interests. The report is dated by 2003, but was released by wikileaks on February of 2009. It stated that The Yukos case appeared to highlight increasing contention within the Putin administration over economic policy, with one group advocating some degree of free enterprise (the pro-oligarch “Yeltsinites,” who are holdovers from the previous administration) and another group calling for more state control over the economy (the siloviki). The siloviki also tend to be more distrustful of
ties with the West than the Yeltsinites.
The case of Khodorkovskiy arrest in 2003

On February 16, the General Procuracy charged Khodorkovskiy and Platon Lebedev with embezzlement and money laundering. According to the indictment, Khodorkovkiy and Lebedev acquired controlling interests in three oil companies (Samaraneftegaz, Yuganskneftegaz, and Tomskneftegaz) and then caused these companies to sell oil at below-market prices to other companies that they controlled without disclosing to other shareholders their role in these transactions. They then allegedly re-sold the oil at market prices, which were approximately 3-4 times greater than the original purchase price. The alleged victims were the other shareholders of Samaraneftegaz, Yuganskneftegaz, and Tomskneftegaz, who were entitled to the benefit of an arms-length sale at market prices, but instead received only the artificially deflated prices allegedly set by KHODORKOVSKIY and Lebedev.
However, the defense of Mikhail Khodorkovskiy claimed that they would present substantial documentary evidence, including records of corporate meetings, proving that the minority shareholders of Samaraneftegaz, Yuganskneftegaz, and Tomskneftegaz were fully informed of all relevant aspects of the subject transactions.
Statement of charge against Khodorkovkiy, defense tactics of Mikhail Khodorkovkiy

Some observers in Russia have explained moves by the Putin administration against the oligarchs in terms of a marker laid down by Putin in mid-2000. In a closed meeting with the oligarchs, Putin allegedly pledged not to revisit the privatization deals if they did not become involved in opposition political activities. These observers suggest that the Putin administration’s prosecution of Khodorkovskiy, as well as earlier moves against prominent oligarchs, may be explained in part by the administration’s displeasure over their political activities. In 2003, Khodorkovskiy had become active in funding
liberal causes and opposition parties, and hinted that he might eventually run for president. His arrest and Putin’s November 14 speech to businessmen served to drive home this message to stay out of politics, in this view.
Observer's opinion on Khodorkovskiy case
Khodorkovskiy has filed two complaints to the ECHR (The European Court of Human Rights) in Strasbourg alleging violations of his rights under the Convention in the first case. The ECHR in Strasbourg adjudicates claims brought under the Convention. As a result of Russia’s ratification of the Convention in 1998, Russia is bound by the Convention and any ECHR decisions interpreting it. The first complaint alleges that Khodorkovskiy was arrested and held in pre-trial detention in violation of the Convention. The ECHR had agreed to hear this case on an accelerated timetable.
The second complaint alleges violations of Khodorkovkiy’s right to a fair trial. Before adjudicating a case, the ECHR typically sends a list of specific questions about the movant’s claims to the respondent government, but the Russian government has not yet responded (due to the date of the document was written 18.04.2007) to the ECHR’s questions regarding the second complaint and it is therefore not clear when this case will be considered. The second complaint is “more interesting” than the first because, if successful, it could result in a reversal of Khodorkovskiy’s conviction. By contrast, the first claim could only result in an award of monetary damages.
The European Court of Human Rights

The latest cable from American embasy with the name "RULE OF LAW LIPSTICK ON A POLITICAL PIG" explains that the trial of former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and his associate Platon Lebedev will last until at least 2012. It continues in Moscow's Khaminovsky court and having moved from the reading of the prosecution's evidence - 188 volumes - to questioning of the prosecution's witnesses. Thus far the prosecution has called 31 of its 250 witnesses, meaning that the trial will probably last until 2012.
In the conclusion of the document it says that government of Russia is ready for doing everything to save its face, quote: "in this case by applying a superficial rule-of-law gloss to a cynical system where political enemies are eliminated with impunity". It is also stated that Khodorkovskiy, according to the widespread opinion, violated the tacit rules of the game: if you keep out of politics, you can line your pockets as much as you desire.
Lipstick on a political pig

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