Rehashing Old Charges

Kommersant explains how there is not much “new” about the rehashed charges filed against Mikhail Khodorkovsky by the Russian prosecutors. The paper is also running an interview with a former Khodorkovsky cell mate, who confesses that he was blackmailed into filing a false statement which resulted in the denial of early conditional release.

Style Improved in Khodorkovsky Case A new version of an old charge has been brought against YUKOS former chiefs Yesterday Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were charged with a theft of some 350 mln tons of oil and laundering 487 bln roubles and $7.5. You can hardly render this accusation new: Compared with the previous version, only stylistic inaccuracy has been improved, and some of the paragraphs have been swapped. The lawyers of those accused do not rule it out that the investigators decided to protract the process to demonstrate their activity while waiting for a political decision regarding Mr Khodorkovsky’s fate. Yesterday Russian Prosecutor General’s Office investigators Mr Ibiev and Ms Shapovalova handed over a 145-page order to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, which reads that they are accused of a theft and laundering money. It’s a new version of the charge that was brought against them in February, 2007. At that time the paper was signed by a reputed investigator Salavat Karimov. Now Valery Alyshev, investigator with the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, put his signature on the document.

According to the renewed version, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev illegally acquired stocks of the Apatit JSC in 1994-1996 (which was mentioned in the first case – Kommersant) and then kept on with their criminal activity. In particular, they gave their subordinates orders to draft fake agreements on an exchange between the VNK JSC and four Cyprus companies, which were under their control. As a result, 38% of the VNK stocks (36.2 bln roubles) was exchanged for 37 mln YUKOS stocks (222 mln roubles). This deal was assessed by the investigators as a theft of 38% of the VNK stocks – a state-owned company.Then, according to Mr Alyshev, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev transferred the 38% of the VNK stocks to YUKOS by means of carrying out illegal bill operations. Their next step was operations with non-liquid bills, which resulted in giving the right of ownership of 52% YUKOS’ stocks to YUKOS Universal Ltd registered on the Isle of Man and Hulley Enterprises Ltd registered on Cyprus. The two off-shore companies were under control of Group MENATEP Ltd, which was set up in Gibraltar by a group of natural persons headed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.After it Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev stole 349.3 mln tons of oil from 1998-2004. To this end, they allegedly organized concluding agreements between YUKOS and its affiliates Yuganskneftegaz JSC and Samaraneftegaz JSC in 1996. In 1998 a similar agreement was signed with the Tomskneft VNK JSC. The agreements provided for giving the right of ownership of their production to YUKOS as soon as the oil was extracted from the wells. It was not beneficial to the affiliates, in the view of the investigators. The agreements were fake because YUKOS was not the buyer of the oil – the production was delivered to other affiliate companies as well as Russian and overseas consumers. The price YUKOS bought the oil at was set by the members of the group headed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, and it was 2-4 times lower than the market one. Stealing the oil, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev sold it at market prices making 487.4 bln roubles and $7.5, and laundered it via off-shores.Mr Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Vadim Klyuvgant, told Kommersant that the accusations brought by Salavat Karimov and Valery Alyshev do not differ that much. “The volume and legal qualification are practically the same. Only some paragraphs have been swapped, and the language improved.” According to Mr Klyuvgant, the defense has two basic suppositions: The investigators have decided to procrastinate while waiting for a political decision, or Khodorkovsky’s opponents just demonstrate their activity.It need be reminded that Russian President’s political decision will determine the fate of Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev. As he addressed the European Parliament, Dmitry Medvedev said on June 5, “Any convict, Khodorkovsky included, can seek a pardon.”Mr Klyuvgant told us that after studying the charge Mikhail Khodorkovsky wrote that it was unintelligible to him, and he woldn’t admit his guilt. Platon Lebedev’s lawyer Yelena Liptser told Kommersant that her client called the charge absurd.Yesterday Kommersant interviewed YUKOS’ former staff, who believe that the new charge is the prosecution’s another attempt to prevent those charged from studying the 140-volume case (which has lasted for a year already) and to add new evidence to it. In particular, it concerns interrogation protocols of YUKOS managers who stayed abroad and have recently returned to Russia. Kommersant sources with the Prosecutor General’s Office confirmed this version saying that Mikhail Dodonov (ex-business manager of Rosprom and YUKOS, and godfather of one of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s children), Oleg Sheyko (former YUKOS vice-president) and Sergey Gorkov (former YUKOS-Moscow vice-president) have been interrogated in connection with the Khodorkovsky case.Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were told that they’ll be once more interrogated, too. In an answer to the lawyers’ question, what kind of interrogation it is going to be, the investigators answered that they haven’t got any order from Moscow yet. According to Russia’s Penal Code, those charged must resume studying the case before July 8, because on August 8 the 18-month term provided for detaining Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev expires, and they must have a month at least to study the materials.Yekaterina Zapodinskaya