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Top court annuls arrest of Khodorkovsky co-accused

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-23

Russia’s Supreme Court overturned this Wednesday a 2003 decision to arrest Platon Lebedev, the business partner of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (photo), after finding several violations in the politically-charged case.

Reuters - Russia’s top court on Wednesday ruled that a 2003 decision to arrest the business partner of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was illegal, paving the way for a wider legal challenge to the politically charged case.

In a rare Russian legal victory for the owners of what was once one of the country’s biggest industrial empires, the Supreme Court overturned a decision from July 2003 to issue an arrest warrant for business partner Platon Lebedev.

But lawyers for Lebedev, who along with Khodorkovsky headed the YUKOS-Menatep business empire, cautioned that the decision was unlikely to indicate that the Russian authorities were taking a softer approach towards the two jailed businessmen.

“It is far too early to say what the ruling means. We need to study it to see whether we can use this decision to mount a wider challenge,” said Maxim Dbar, a spokesman for their legal team.

The move by the Supreme Court follows a 2007 ruling by the European Court for Human Rights that various legal procedures had been breached during the arrest of Lebedev.

Khodorkovsky, who was at one time Russia’s richest man, fell foul of the Kremlin in a battle which marked Vladimir Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency. This spilled into the public arena in July 2003 when Lebedev was arrested, sending shock waves through the business community.

Khodorkovsky was arrested shortly afterwards in October 2003 by armed officers from the FSB domestic intelligence service.

The two tycoons were sentenced in 2005 to eight years in jail for fraud and tax evasion. They are now on trial for new charges of money laundering and embezzlement that could keep them in jail for another 22 years.

The main production units of YUKOS, once Russia’s biggest oil company producing more than OPEC member Qatar, ended up in the hands of state-controlled oil companies such as Rosneft.

Both Lebedev and Khodorkovsky have always said they were innocent and that charges against them were trumped up by corrupt officials who wanted to carve up their business empire.

Date created : 2009-12-23


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