The so-called ‘Experts Case’– Are the authorities afraid of releasing Khodorkovsky and Lebedev?

posted 11 Dec 2013, 10:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Dec 2013, 10:35 ]
9 December 2013

Source: (info)
The former head of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the former head of Menatep Platon Lebedev could face new charges of “heading a criminal group engaged in perverting the course of justice”. Is the Kremlin scared of freeing Khodorkovsky?

The attempts to bring new charges are reported by the Vedomosti, referring to a source that is “familiar with the case materials”.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has already been convicted of alleged money laundering, reports the source, therefore the charges will be brought against others, and the former head of Yukos and Lebedev might be charged with leading a criminal group. Such charges were mentioned in the files of their second case. However, they were never brought against the defendants.

As reports, the search warrants related to the “the case of experts” make mention of sponsoring attempts to change the criminal law in favour of Khodorkovsky, using money he had obtained by selling the “embezzled” oil. According to the investigation, the person in charge of these funds was Elena Novikova, head of the Centre for Legal and Economic Studies.

This episode of alleged financial support by the Centre will be the basis for the new case, the source believes. The investigators are trying to “prove” that those who organized the liberalization of the laws put pressure on the experts who conducted the evaluation of the second Yukos prosecution.

On 6 December deputy prosecutor general Aleksandr Zvyagintsev said that several criminal cases against Khodorkovsky are being looked into. “It is true that several criminal cases against him and a number of other people are being investigated, and they have good judicial prospects,” Zvyagintsev said.

In answer to the question whether the forthcoming amnesty would apply to the former heads of Yukos, the deputy prosecutor general replied: “Khodorkovsky has been convicted by a court and is serving his sentence, as is well-known, for very serious crimes committed by an organized group. You can draw your own conclusions from this. It is not a question for me to answer,” Zyagintsev replied.

Later an unidentified source reported to Interfax that the matter in question is the laundering of $10bn abroad. According to the source, the investigators are making inquiries into the possibility that laundered funds were used to alter Russian legislation. “The procedural status of Khodorkovsky in this case is not yet established and he isn’t a suspect or an accused person, but this is all a matter of time,” added the news agency’s source.

Khodorkovsky’s defence lawyers have no information that their client will face new charges, defence lawyer Vadim Kliuvgant told Ekho Moskvy radio station. According to Kliuvgant, it is absolutely unclear on what basis the General Prosecutor’s Office has made such an announcement. The lawyer also added that if it has been decided to continue the “reprisals” against Yukos, then absolutely anything is possible. Kliuvgant pointed out that the team of investigators had been set up 11 years ago, and, he said, is continuing to fabricate criminal cases against those involved in Yukos case.

Earlier Kommersant, referring to a source in the State Duma, had reported that the present amnesty will not apply to those involved in political cases, including Khodorkovsky. There is a list of 110 types of crime to which the amnesty will not be applied. In particular, among the crimes excluded from the amnesty is money laundering, of which both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been convicted.

On 6 August the judicial board for criminal cases of the Supreme Court slightly reduced the sentence handed down in the second Yukos trial for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. The sentences of both men were reduced to 10 years and 10 months. Thus Lebedev will be released on 2 May 2014 and Khodorkovsky on 25 August 2014. The decision to mitigate the sentences was made on the basis of the supervisory appeal, submitted by the defence team against the sentence handed down by Khamovnichesky

Translated by Olga Cable