RA in the National Post

nplogo0828.jpg Robert Amsterdam is quoted in the following article from Canada’s National Post:

Moscow irked ‘political’ Swiss ruling favours tycoon Refuse To Help Prosecution Peter Goodspeed, National Post Days after Switzerland’s top court refused to help Russia in its prosecution of former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian prosecutor accused the Swiss judiciary of succumbing to political pressure. “Switzerland’s refusal to help Russia does not have legal weight and is spurred by political motivations,” Yuri Chaika, the prosecutor-general, told a news conference in Moscow. His remarks followed Friday’s ruling by the Swiss Federal Court in which it rebuked Russia for prosecuting and jailing the oil billionaire on charges of fraud and tax evasion. In an unprecedented ruling that cited “the political and discriminatory character” of Mr. Khodorkovsky’s case, the court ordered Swiss bank officials to stop helping the Russian government investigate the jailed oil tycoon and cleared the way to unblock US$248-million in the bank accounts of the former Yukos oil company chairman and his former partner Platon Lebedev. In unusually blunt language, the panel of five judges said it believed Mr. Khodorkovsky’s prosecution and conviction were politically motivated and his trial had been marked by serious procedural irregularities and systemic deficiencies. The ruling refers to “concrete facts that lead to the inference that the appellant [Mr. Khodorkovsky] is under pursuit for hidden motives, notably in relation to his political opinions.” The Swiss judges said Russia’s bid to destroy and dismantle Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil company, had a “political and discriminatory character ? underlined by the infringement of human rights and of the right to defence.” Legal action against Yukos and its executives was organized “by the powers in place with the goal of putting to heel the class of rich people known as ‘oligarchs’ and sidelining potential or declared political adversaries,” it added. Yukos was widely regarded as one of Russia’s most transparent and well-run companies, but came under a barrage of legal attacks in 2003 soon after Mr. Khodorkovsky began funding opposition parties opposed to Vladimir Putin, the Russian President. As Russian officials moved to reassert control over their country’s energy industry, Yukos and Mr. Khodorkovsky were accused of fraud, evading taxes on a massive scale and laundering money. Yukos was eventually bankrupted by the government’s pursuit of tax claims and the oil firm was auctioned off. It was bought by state-controlled oil company Rosneft, which is chaired by Igor Sechin, Mr. Putin’s deputy chief of staff. Mr. Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence in a prison camp in Siberia. While the Swiss ruling does nothing to alter his legal fate, Mr. Khodorkovsky’s chief international lawyer, Canadian Robert Amsterdam, has hailed it as a resounding moral victory. It is the first time the top Swiss court has invoked claims of political persecution and human rights violations as grounds for not helping another country pursue a criminal case. “For the Russians generally and Putin in particular, this is an incredibly serious decision,” Mr. Amsterdam said. “People look to Switzerland, and a Swiss court saying that the Russian courts and government behaved in a manner like this is bound to have long-term implications on the legitimacy, not only of their courts, but their business and their ethics.” The lawyer said he has argued all along Mr. Khodorkovsky’s prosecution was politically motivated and his trial ignored both international and Russian law. “Now, for the first time ever, the top Swiss court has turned down an international request for assistance on political grounds. It has literally never happened before,” he said. “It’s quite extraordinary. The court essentially is saying that the Russians don’t have a legal system and they have essentially used the law to steal property.”