Monday, 27 December 2010

Khodorkovsky guilty

The Yukos two, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev have been found guilty of theft and money laundering.

"The court has established that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have appropriated property using their staff positions," Judge Danilkin told the courtroom.

Only a handful of reporters were allowed into the courtroom for the verdict and Danilkin then requested even those few to leave and called off the live broadcast while the rest of the verdict was read out.

The sentences for the two men are not yet known, but both could face up to 7 more years in jail for this set of charges. They have already spent 7 years behind bars for tax evasion, their sentences were due to expire next year.

The court dropped some of the charges as the statute of limitations had expired, but did not embellish any further.

They have been convicted for embezzling 218 tons of oil from Yukos and laundering over 3 billion rubles ($97.5 million) in revenues.

Both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have maintained their innocence throughout. They claim the trials have been part of a political vendetta against them, something the Kremlin denies.

The case has enjoyed a great deal of media attention and Khodorkovsky has been unrelenting in his criticism of the government and its alleged involvement. He said that a state that destroys its best companies and trusts only the bureaucracy and the special services is a sick state, the BBC reported.

Putin said earlier this month in his annual TV Q&A with the public that “a thief belongs in prison,” which Khodorkovsky’s lead lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said “removed all doubt about who puts pressure on the court,” adding that his comments would be used in an appeal, should Khodorkovsky be found guilty, Bloomberg reported.

The case has attracted onlookers both at home and abroad, “This trial is considered a test of the rule of law in Russia,” Ulrich Brandenburg, German Ambassador to Russia.

And the prison walls could be closing in around the fallen tycoons, as prosecutors could press a third set of charges against the ex-Yukos executives in the near future, defence lawyers say.

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