Jason Bush has a devastating piece published in BusinessWeek about the Council of Europe report on Russia’s rule of law vacuum.
Prosecutors accuse the ex-Yukos managers of embezzling 350 million metric tons of oil, equivalent to Yukos’ entire oil output for six years. Defense lawyers and several independent legal observers have expressed bewilderment at the new claims. They note that in their previous trial, the two managers were convicted of underpaying taxes on this same output, implying that it was legal business activity. The alleged embezzlement occurred when Yukos was Russia’s largest oil company and one of its most visible companies overall.
Now these concerns have been echoed by the author of the Council of Europe report, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former German Minister of Justice. “The legal justification of the new criminal cases against Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev has me perplexed,” she writes, adding that “any accusation must fulfill minimum standards of logic.”