Robert Amsterdam Article in Die Welt

Yesterday, the German newspaper Die Welt published the attached article penned by Robert Amsterdam.


Defending Khodorkovsky from Germany By Robert R. Amsterdam Would German gas consumers please help to assure the release from prison of Mikhail Khodorkovsky? Rather than address the Russian leadership, which has wrongfully imprisoned my client, I thought I would take this case directly to the people who, perhaps unbeknownst, fund and support the present regime in the Kremlin. Before you turn to the next article please let me explain. It is the inflated gas prices and great influence of your leading energy companies that have supported a regime that has stolen my client’s company and imprisoned him in Siberia. All the while, German banks have chewed at the carcass of Yukos. They have assisted in the illegal plunder of the company by helping to float its assets on foreign markets, and financing shady bids and deals led by state-controlled companies Gazprom and Rosneft. When I use words such as “stolen” and “illegal”, their use is intentional and not simply an exaggeration. No credible legal opinion exists which can legitimise the destruction of Yukos. The state’s expropriation of the company violated fundamental Russian laws, from the Constitution and all the way down the hierarchy of laws. This was a grand-scale theft by state officials and others who abused public institutions in order to achieve their criminal aims. From the Nord Stream pipeline, which is a political project of the Kremlin bereft of economic rationale – just ask your leading energy experts – to the mute response to the expropriation of Shell at Sakhalin and other threats to foreign property rights in Russia – the silence of Germany has only emboldened the Kremlin, which now displays increasing hubris and lack of concern for what the world thinks of it. Racism has become part of official discourse while peaceful protesters are pummelled and a phoney election is being conjured by the wizards behind the Kremlin walls. The Baltics, Poland and Georgia are all under various forms of economic sanction and Germany – the de facto leader of the EU – watches as its ex-Chancellor becomes the poster boy of President-Putin-the-flawless-democrat. Mr Schroeder has had some successes in his new mission as the Kremlin’s crusader. He has for instance won over the prime minister of Hungary, who has now mouthed that famous incantation of energy security: “President Putin is a great democrat!” (to be repeated 3 times quickly in front of cameras). Once these magic words are repeated the political leader clicks his heels and he is in a land of cheap energy and no rule of law to bother with. This support of the Kremlin campaign originates in Germany and is based on the cartel-like gas arrangements which have allowed Gazprom to profit directly right along with Germany’s leading energy companies who profit handsomely through a fifty-fifty deal on nearly the entire mark-up. Meanwhile, German energy companies and banks have worked with Gazprom to take over energy infrastructure from countries that cannot afford newly hiked bogus market rates. So it is to Germany that one must turn in dealing with the Kremlin. Mr Khodorkovsky was found guilty in what was no less than a show trial – as certified by your former Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. He has since been stabbed in jail, kept in solitary confinement for varying periods, and banished some 6000 kilometres from home contrary to Russian law. He is now being returned to Moscow to face further bogus charges as the authorities seek cover for the theft of Yukos’s remaining $30 billion in assets. Messrs Putin and Schroeder actually try to justify this treatment by saying he was an oligarch and that he stole Yukos. Yet the facts get in their way. Mr Khodorkovsky took incredible risk in taking over Yukos, which was a ramshackle company deeply in debt. What the Kremlin stole from Mr Khodorkovsky was not what they sold him years prior, but rather the billions of dollars of value added under his tenure, after he worked for years to build Yukos into one of the world’s leading new oil companies. Yukos’s growth was no foregone conclusion – as can be seen by the sputtering performance of state-controlled Rosneft over the same period. Unfortunately for them, Mr Schroeder and the group he now works for cannot boast the same performance for Gazprom as it stumbles along in developing infrastructure. This explains why instead of focusing on exploration and development methods, they are so desperate to expand their most effective growth tactic they have: a practice that is known in the West as expropriation. So I say to those who are complicit with the gaolers of my client: he may be the one behind bars, but it is you who are as well a hostage. My friends, demand the break-up of the cartel that strangles German energy consumers and it is your job to control Germany’s one-sided relationship with Moscow. Let the world know that Russia’s new racial laws, incarceration of political prisoners and destruction of electoral democracy is too expensive a price to be paid.