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Breaking: Khodorkovsky Defence Seeks Chevron Subpoena

Breaking news from the Financial Times – Robert Amsterdam is quoted in the article:

Khodorkovsky defence seeks Chevron subpoena By Catherine Belton in Moscow Defence lawyers for Mikhail Khodorkovsky have filed suit in a US district court to subpoena Chevron to release documents on the jailed oil tycoon’s Yukos oil empire and aid his defence against charges he embezzled more than $30bn in oil sales. The surprise lawsuit, filed late on Wednesday, would essentially seek to pull the US oil giant into the biggest legal case in post-Soviet history. It calls on Chevron to provide Mr Khodorkovsky’s defence with the due diligence studies it conducted on Yukos in 2003 when it was close to buying a significant stake in the company. The defence team is hoping it will help quash Russian prosecutors’ claims Mr Khodorkovsky embezzled more than $30bn in oil revenues. The case has led to Mr Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment on charges of fraud and tax evasion and to the takeover by the state of his Yukos oil group. Mr Khodorkovsky faced fresh charges of money laundering and embezzlement earlier this year in a new case that could go to trial this autumn and could keep him in jail for many years. A Swiss federal court last week ruled in a separate case that the Russian government’s pursuit of Mr Khodorkovsky was politically motivated and designed to “go after a class of rich oligarchs and push aside . . . political adversaries.” It declined Russian prosecutors’ requests for legal assistance. Kremlin officials have said the case is a fair battle against tax evasion. Chevron’s due diligence will provide “valuable evidence . . . that will refute the allegations of embezzlement and money laundering,” Mr Khodorkovsky’s defence lawyers said in the lawsuit, filed in the San Francisco division of the northern district court of California. “Were there any truth to the accusation, Chevron would have undoubtedly detected the widespread criminal misconduct alleged, and would not have continued to pursue the acquisition.” Mr Khodorkovsky had reached the final stages of talks on the sale of a significant stake in Yukos with both ExxonMobil and Chevron, prior to his arrest in October 2003. “It is virtually inconceivable that a sophisticated oil company like Chevron would not notice a 350m tonne, or $30bn, discrepancy between the amount of oil that came out of the well head and the amount of oil revenue that was ultimately recovered by Yukos,” the filing said. “Our chances of being legally successful [in Russia] are minuscule. But this will at least help us present a clear defence,” said Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for Mr Khodorkovsky. Chevron did not respond to a request for comment.