Vedomosti Interview with Khodorkovsky

The following is an exclusive translation of an interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky that appeared in the Russian Vedomosti newspaper on Thursday, in the middle of Khodorkovsky’s two-day parole hearing, before the request for parole was denied. khodorkovsky082308.jpg“For me the oil theme is already in the past” — Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former owner of NK YUKOS Five years ago people considered Khodorkovsky the richest person in the country. Now he regrets that he had remained in Russian then, in spite of the risk of arrest, but says that he could not have acted otherwise Irina Reznik, Vedomosti, 22.08.2008, №157 (2179) Yesterday the Ingodinsky court in Chita could not issue a decision with respect to a petition of the lawyers of Mikhail Khodorkovsky about conditional early release (parole). The judge promised to adopt a decision today. The convoyers did not allow journalists to come up to Khodorkovsky, but he answered in writing to questions of «Vedomosti». — If you knew for sure that the question about a pardon will be decided positively, would you submit a plea or not? After all, many former employees of YUKOS, having become unwilling participants in the YUKOS affair, believe that if they pardon you, then the cases in relation to many of them will be terminated, while someone will be released from punishment. Do they not delude themselves?

— I will do all that depends on me in order to lighten the fate of those who have innocently suffered from the YUKOS affair.— In July the Procuracy-General brought a new charge against you with Platon Lebedev. Their essence is in that you had stolen all the oil produced by «daughters» of YUKOS, representing it as well fluid, and legalized the incomes, causing damages of 850 bln rub. What do you think about this new charge? Many call these charges absurd, while at the same time the president promises “to struggle with legal nihilism”.— Many of my opponents consider that I consider unfair precisely the selectiveness of the application of the law, i.e., like, everybody violated, but they’re punishing me alone. This is untrue! My supporters often say that in our country the law allows locking up anybody. And this is not so! I consider that our Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, although they are not ideal, are fully civilized and acceptable for a democratic country. I am also convinced likewise that in actuality we do not have all that many people violating federal law; at any rate, no more than in many other developed countries of the world. Our problem — is the application of the law, judicial practice. The proportion of sentences of acquittal in our regular courts is 100 times lower than general worldwide indicators. There there is one acquittal per 5-10 cases — in our country per 500-1000.It is interesting that our jury courts and commercial courts demonstrate the average world indicators on the whole. It is precisely under this viewing angle that it makes sense to look at my previous sentence and at my new charge. That is our law corresponds to common sense and business practice, while if a charge and a sentence do not correspond to that same common sense, then the matter is not about the law.It is precisely for this reason that I did not admit, do not admit myself guilty.— And what do you think about the charge concretely against you?— If one recalls the previous charge of evasion from taxes, then even it did not correspond to the law, because criminal law prohibits distortion of reporting, and not evasion itself. And the reporting fully reflected all the benefits granted in reality by the ZATO. Whether it was lawful to make use of these benefits or not — this is already a theme for a completely different talk in a commercial court. The new charges you can evaluate yourself from the point of view of common sense.What do I think of the new charge? Nothing good, other than that I personally would not have begun to again raise the question of the lawfulness of the tax claims against YUKOS. For me this is in the past. But the investigation out of considerations incomprehensible to me is raising them to full height.And here my common sense «puts on the brakes». Who and why in the investigative committee is digging up the theme of the bankruptcy of YUKOS — I do not understand.But in general, those who believe that one can steal all the oil over six years of work from an oil company simply should not read «Vedomosti». But they don’t read it anyway, they watch «Anschlag» and«The Simpsons».— You say that you do not admit yourself guilty, but after all the petition about parole itself signifies your factual agreement with the sentence, and this is a guarantee that the assets of YUKOS will already completely legally remain with «Rosneft», «Gazprom» and other acquirers. That means, turning out to be at liberty, you will not contest this. Are you ready for something like that?— As concerns my personal readiness for the assets «legally» remaining with «Rosneft» and with «Gazprom», then for me the oil theme is already in the past, and I do not like to look back, because this is not productive. I already said in court that I do not intend to return to the oil business and to strive for a reconsideration of unjust decisions, concerning the company YUKOS. I also said about my attitude towards the sentence, which is immutable.— It is considered that one of the signs of correction (a condition for parole) — this is compensation of the damages of tens of millions of dollars. Is it realistic to compensate this?— As concerns compensation of damages from my side, I think, after the move of the assets of YUKOS into the hands of a state company soil for such a conversation is absent. All understand this, however the people who organized the YUKOS affair are afraid to see me at liberty and therefore will do all so that I would remain in jail. Judicial reform — is a matter not of one day. But as soon as in Russia a court becomes independent and impartial, such claims and charges will be withdrawn by the accusers themselves.— Are you following events taking place in Russian business — the transactions of large companies, large corporate events? From where do you gather information?— I follow what is going on in the country and beyond the border by means of the mass information media, although this is not simple. As strange as it seems, for now I am able to understand, and sometimes even to forecast events taking place. That is the picture of the world obtained with the help of the press, on the whole is adequate. As concerns business publications, I read «Vedomosti», «Kommersant», «Expert», SmartMoney, «Kommersant-dengi» and as a result do not sense a big separation from the customary informational milieu, for which I am very grateful to journalists.— What do you think of the conflict of the TNK-BP shareholders? Does this signify that a JV between a Russian and Western company is impossible?— The conflict at TNK-BP confirms the generally accepted opinion that it is impossible in a contract, all the more so a strategic and long-term one, to foresee everything, all the more so in conditions of unconsolidated business practice. There has to be a constant balance of interests, supported by a balance of opportunities. Another question — the correctness of the assessment by the sides of the long-term trend of changes, but this is already business decisions.— At around this same time YUKOS was conducting negotiations on a merger with Chevron. If this transaction had taken place, would you have been able to avoid conflict?— The abandoning of the transaction with Chevron became a strategic decision, born as a result of the struggle of different forces in the administration of the president. Right or not — is not for me to judge. I am an interested party. I had my position, which I stood up for, but the final decision was not mine.— Now in Russia is taking place at once several loud corporate conflicts — around TNK-BP, «Norlisk nickel», the company «Mechel» is having big problems. After the public criticism of the premier the capitalization of «Mechel» fell sharply. Do you agree that all this negatively affects the attitudes of investors towards Russia?— Corporate conflicts — are a routine thing. What affects the climate badly is a lack of predictability in the methods of their resolution, an instability of business practice. And a deficiency of judicial and arbitral procedures. The incomprehensibility and non-publicness of what is taking place — here is where the problem is and the key to the betterment of the investment milieu.— How do you assess the world financial crisis and its consequences?— I am very positively disposed. It (the crisis) is very manageable, timely and is leading the world economy in the right direction. We all need a more uniform distribution both of world wealth as a whole, and of the level of consumption in particular. We all need a reduction of the unit energy intensity of world GDP. We all need to think about a change of the consumption paradigm and of the criteria for the assessment of the quality of life, shifting them in the direction of more resource- and nature-conserving ones. And finally, we need large-scale investments in replacing the hydrocarbon energy base. The time is come. Today’s crisis, luckily, is akin neither to a fire nor to a typhoon. This is an alarm-clock wakeup call in the morning. of course, one still wants to spend some time in dreamy reverie, but it’s time for work too. I am not expecting high tempos of growth of the American or the European market. There will take place not quantitative, but qualitative changes. To changes will be subjected not the scale, but the structure of the economy. The production of steel and coal is no longer an indicator of successfulness. I’m afraid that we are still in thrall to the old paradigm, like, by the way, our Chinese neighbors are too. Only they do not have a choice yet, while we, on the contrary, still do have a choice.— Assessing events of five-year remoteness and understanding that a new term threatens you, do you consider that you acted correctly, not having left the country on the eve of your arrest?— I both regret and could not have acted otherwise. Alas, but I, just like any ordinary person, am not one-dimensional. I regret very much that these years I am torn away from family, children, to whom I really do owe a lot. But neither could I abandon an arrested friend. Maybe he even reviles me for this, I don’t know. CHITA________________________________________How Khodorkovsky sat200514 Decemberleadership of Krasnokamensk colony issued a decree on the levying of a reprimand on Khodorkovsky in the form of a censure for the leaving by him of his work place200624 JanuaryMikhail Khodorkovsky was placed in a penalty isolator for violation of the rules of internal routine. Employees of the colony conducted a search in the place where the personal things of Khodorkovsky are stored, and uncovered there orders of the Ministry of justice of the RF, which concern the rights and duties of convicts in conditions of the serving of punishment. The administration of the colony attributed the uncovered papers to documents, that it is prohibited to have for convicts in accordance with the rules of internal routine of the institutionOn the night of 14 Aprilone of the convicts of the colony of the surname Kuchma wounded for Khodorkovsky the face, for him were applied stitches. Together with Kuchma Khodorkovsky was placed in the penalty isolator for the consumption of food in an inappropriate place3 MayKhodorkovsky was hospitalized in the med/san unit after he had declared a dry hunger strikeIn Junehe was excluded from the section of civic correspondents of the newspaper «Rezonans», which is distributed in the correctional colonies of Chita Oblast, in connection with the levying on him of an administrative reprimand for violation of the established regime for the serving of punishmentIn DecemberKhodorkovsky and Lebedev upon the demand of the Procuracy-General were staged from colonies to the investigative isolator of Chita for the carrying out of an investigation with respect to a new case of the laundering of monetary means200829 January — 11 Februarydeclared a hunger strike as a sign of solidarity with gravely ill vice-president of YUKOS Vasily Aleksanyan being held in «Matrosskaya Tishina»BiographyBorn 26 June 1963 in Moscow. In 1986 completed the Moscow chemico-technical institute named after Mendeleyev________________________________________1987created Center for inter-sectoral scientific-technical programs («Menatep»)________________________________________1988founded Bank «Menatep»________________________________________1995left post of chairman of the management board of the bank, in order to head the company «Rosprom» (it managed 100 privatized enterprises, including YUKOS)________________________________________1997became chairman of the management board of NK YUKOS________________________________________2005sentenced to nine years of general regime colony