AP: Khodorkovsky lawyer says Swiss court decision shows Yukos cases illegitimate

Robert Amsterdam, quoted by the Associated Press on the precedent-setting ruling from Switzerland in the Khodorkovsky case:

Khodorkovsky lawyer says Swiss court decision shows Yukos cases illegitimate MOSCOW: A lawyer for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the imprisoned former head of the Yukos oil company, said Friday that a Swiss court’s refusal to turn over documents to Russia shows that Khodorkovsky is the victim of political persecution. The Federal Tribunal, the supreme court of Switzerland, on Thursday forbade the transfer to Russia of bank documents. Russia is seeking documents on banks and companies connected to Yukos as part of a criminal probe that already has put Khodorkovsky in a Siberian prison colony and forced the auction of Yukos’ assets to pay billions of dollars in back-tax bills. Yukos once was Russia’s largest oil producer and regarded as one of the country’s most transparent and well-run companies. The barrage of legal actions against the company was seen by many as aimed at punishing Khodorkovsky for funding opposition parties and at helping the state reassert control of Russia’s oil business. Many of Yukos’ auctioned assets were bought by state-controlled Rosneft. The purchases boosted Rosneft from a second-echelon position to Russia’s largest oil company. The Swiss court’s decision cited “the political and discriminatory character of the procedure in Russia.” It was the first time Switzerland had refused another country’s request for legal assistance, Khodorkovsky lawyer Robert Amsterdam told reporters in a conference call. “The gravity and importance of that underlines completely the position taken by the defense in Russia at the original show trial,” Amsterdam said. “The attack on Khodorkovsky and the attack on Yukos … was in fact a political orchestration designed solely to intimidate political opponents and effect a tremendous economic theft from the true owners of Yukos,” he said. The Russian Prosecutor-General’s office declined comment Friday on the Swiss court’s decision. Khodorkovsky was arrested in October 2003 when his plane was stormed by special forces while on a refueling stop in Novosibirsk. In 2005, he was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for fraud and tax evasion. Russian authorities are now pursuing an embezzlement case against him and his imprisoned business partner Platon Lebedev. Amsterdam said he believed the Swiss court’s decision could be seen by Russian prosecutors as a warning to pull back from the embezzlement case. “It is very important that procuracy (prosecutors) understand that it is now clear — it has been clear for years and now is even more clear — that this case against Khodorkovsky has been so transparently politically motivated … that these proceedings are absolutely void from inception,” he said.