A European arbitration panel Monday ruled that an expropriation claim valued at up to $100 billion by former shareholders of bankrupt oil giant OAO Yukos can proceed against the Russian government, the plaintiffs said.
The claim is by far the largest of a number of attempts by former Yukos shareholders to recover damages from Moscow outside Russia. Once Russia’s largest oil company, Yukos was crushed with tens of billions of dollars in back-tax claims starting in 2004, and its main assets were sold off to state-controlled Russian companies.
Though Russian officials maintain the case was purely a matter of tax evasion, the destruction of Yukos was widely viewed as the Kremlin’s effort to crush its politically ambitious chief executive and main shareholder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is now serving an eight-year sentence in prison for fraud and tax evasion. He is on trial for new charges that could extend his sentence by as many as 20 years.