Rus­sian ty­coon Khodor­kovsky again found guilty

The Pak Banker - - I Nternational -

MOSCOW: A judge on Mon­day de­clared Mikhail Khodor­kovsky guilty of theft and money laun­der­ing charges, a ver­dict that will likely keep the oil ty­coon who was once Rus­sia's rich­est man be­hind bars for sev­eral more years.

It was clear from the open­ing pages of his ver­dict that the judge has found Khodor­kovsky and his busi­ness part­ner Pla­ton Lebe­dev guilty. Read­ing the full ver­dict and an­nounc­ing the sen­tence is ex­pected to take sev­eral days. Khodor­kovsky is near­ing the end of an eight-year sen­tence af­ter be­ing con­victed of tax fraud in a case seen as pun­ish­ment for chal­leng­ing the Krem­lin's eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal power, in part by fund­ing op­po­si­tion par­ties in par­lia­ment.

The con­vic­tion on charges of steal­ing all the oil his Yukos com­pany pro­duced be­tween 1998 and 2003 and laun­der­ing the pro­ceeds could keep him be­hind bars un­til at least 2017.

Vladimir Putin, who was pres­i­dent dur­ing Khodor­kovsky's first trial and is now prime min­is­ter, has shown no sign of soft­en­ing his at­ti­tude to­ward the for­mer oli­garch. Putin said ear­lier this month that Khodor­kovsky is a proven crim­i­nal and "should sit in jail," a state­ment de­nounced by crit­ics as in­ter­fer­ence in the trial.

Putin has not ruled out a re­turn to the pres­i­dency in 2012 and crit­ics sus­pect him of want­ing to keep Khodor­kovsky in­car­cer­ated un­til af­ter that elec­tion.

Nu­mer­ous wit­nesses, in­clud­ing cur­rent and for­mer govern­ment of­fi­cials, tes­ti­fied dur­ing the 20-month trial that the charges against Khodor­kovsky and Lebe­dev were im­prob­a­ble if not ab­surd.

Hun­dreds of Khodor­kovsky sup­port­ers ral­lied out­side the courthouse Mon­day, hold­ing up signs say­ing "Free­dom" and "Rus­sia with­out Putin." Po­lice de­tained some of them as they chanted "Free­dom."

In the court­room, Judge Vik­tor Danilkin read the ver­dict in a low voice, drowned out at times by loud chants from out­side. Kkhodor­kovsky and Lebe­dev sat im­pas­sively in a glass cage. Khodor­kovsky's el­derly par­ents were in the room, his fa­ther Boris hold­ing his head in despair.

Khodor­kovsky's ar­rest in Oc­to­ber 2003 and the sub­se­quent state takeover of his Yukos oil com­pany al­lowed the govern­ment to re­assert con­trol over the en­ergy sec­tor and tamed other wealthy busi­ness­men, who have obe­di­ently fol­lowed the Krem­lin or­ders. The Krem­lin also con­sol­i­dated its hold over po­lit­i­cal life. Soon af­ter Khodor­kovsky's ar­rest, par­ties that he had funded were shut out of par­lia­ment or side­lined.

Rus­sia's Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev, who de­spite his ti­tle re­mains Putin's ju­nior part­ner, has promised to strengthen the rule of law as part of his mis­sion to mod­ern­ize Rus­sia and at­tract more for­eign in­vest­ment. The out­come of the Khodor­kovsky trial is seen as a test of whether Medvedev has any real in­ten­tion - or real power - to de­liver on his prom­ises.

Medvedev urged of­fi­cials Fri­day to re­frain from com­ment­ing on Khodor­kovsky's case be­fore the court rules - a state­ment seen by some as a tacit re­buke to Putin for his state­ment this month that the for­mer ty­coon de­serves no le­niency. -Reuters

MOSCOW: Ma­rina (2nd L) and Boris Khodor­kovsky (C), par­ents of jailed Rus­sian for­mer oil ty­coon Mikhail Khodor­kovsky, and Mariya Lebe­dev (L), wife of Khodor­kovsky's busi­ness part­ner Pla­ton Lebe­dev and his son Mikhail Lebe­dev lis­ten to the ver­dict. -Reuters

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