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Justice Under Pressure: The Verdict

Justice Under Pressure: The Verdict

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Published by mikhailkhodorkovsky

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Published by: mikhailkhodorkovsky on Jun 01, 2012
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This document has been prepared by defense counsel of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, former Yukos Oil Company CEO, and of his business partner and friend Platon L. Lebedev. From March 2009 to December 2010 Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were put on trial on allegations that they had embezzled the entire oil production of Yukos over the six-year period from 1998 to 2003. The purpose of thisdocument is to provide an overview of the December 27, 2010 decision delivered by Judge Viktor N. Danilkin, pronouncing Khodorkovsky and Lebedev guilty. Additional information on the trial isavailable in a series of legal summaries issued by defense counsel as the case unfolded.
 Certainelements of the analysis herein may be impacted by the appeal process that is currently underway. Amore detailed and definitive report on this case, to be issued following the appeal, will supersede thisdocument. For further information, the legal defense team may be contacted via the Khodorkovsky & Lebedev Communications Center.
In 2007, former Yukos Oil Company CEO Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky and his business partner andfriend Platon L. Lebedev became eligible for release on parole under Russian law, having served half of their 8-year sentences since being arrested in 2003 and convicted in a politically-driven first trialthat ended in 2005
while Yukos was destroyed through bogus tax reassessments, forced bankruptcy proceedings and rigged auctions.
 Given their eligibility for release on parole in 2007, or at the latestupon completion of their 8-year sentences in 2011, new charges were sloppily manufactured and proceedings were instigated against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev to prolong their incarceration. Thenew charges, announced in February 2007 and brought to Moscow’s Khamovnichesky Court in asecond trial that started in March 2009, were intended to keep Khodorkovsky and Lebedev isolatedfrom Russian political and economic spheres, to stain their reputations and to whitewash and distractattention from corrupt and criminal actions committed by high-ranking Russian officials, many of whom are believed to have personally benefitted from the destruction of Yukos.In the pre-trial investigatory phase, the defense catalogued a series of severe abuses of the Russiancriminal justice system in the new case, and asserted that these abuses were so numerous and so severeas to be irremediable. Facing charges that were both factually and legally untenable, on March 6,2009 the defendants petitioned to terminate the proceedings. On March 17, 2009, the presiding judge,Viktor N. Danilkin, rejected the petition and scheduled opening hearings for a new trial to commenceon March 31, 2009.
 Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were accused of embezzling 350 million metric tons of oil worth over $25.4 billion and “laundering” over $21.4 billion, and embezzling $102 million in shares held byEastern Oil Company (“VNK”, a Yukos subsidiary) and “laundering” the allegedly embezzled shares.In the prosecution’s closing arguments, the volume of oil allegedly embezzled was suddenly reduced by approximately one third, to 219 million metric tons valued at approximately $13.4 billion. Byeither measure, the allegations had no credible grounding either in the facts described or in the legal
A summary of due process violations that occurred in the investigation of the current case is availableat:http://www.khodorkovskycenter.com/content/defense-stay-motion-summary.Summaries of trial  proceedings periodically issued by the defense are available at:http://www.khodorkovskycenter.com/media-center/ongoing-persecution-second-trial. 
Contact information is available under “Media Center” at:www.khodorkovskycenter.com.
Comprehensive information about the Yukos Affair, and about the case currently being pursued byYukos before the European Court of Human Rights, is available at:www.theyukoslibrary.com.
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terms invoked by prosecutors. On April 21, 2009, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev pleaded not guilty,while emphasizing that the charges remained incomprehensible and unexplained.
 The prosecution’s presentation of its case, which ran from April 21, 2009 to March 29, 2010,resembled a poorly-organized and unsuccessful fishing expedition rather than logically structured proceedings actually proving the occurrence of any elements of crime. Despite filling time by readingfrom a 188-volume case file, and parading numerous witnesses into court, prosecutors were unable(and did not even try) to prove how it was possible that Yukos covered its operating costs, investedheavily in capital expenditures and acquisitions and paid taxes and dividends when the entire oil production of Yukos over a six-year period was being stolen, as alleged in the indictment. The prosecution’s witnesses proffered either no testimony germane to the accusations, or testimony thatactually contradicted the accusations. Despite having over 11 months to read documents and questionwitnesses in court, the prosecutors plainly failed to prove their charges. This did not prevent prosecutors from proclaiming in their closing arguments that they had proven the guilt of thedefendants—while being unable to sum up precisely how they supposedly did so.In the face of official misconduct and due process violations, as the trial unfolded the defense presented highly substantiated motions for the recusal of prosecutors and of the judge
to no avail.Appearances of an adversarial trial were for the most part cosmetic efforts by the authorities to portraythe process as legitimate. The defendants were permitted to speak in court almost without restrictions, but the judge blocked their lawyers from introducing exculpatory documentary evidence and refusedto hear many witnesses and experts. The defense was allowed to file motions and objections, but thevast majority of these motions and objections were routinely denied or ignored. These motions andother defense pleadings were posted online by the defense, along with English translations, illustratingthe absurdities of the process that was unfolding.The “case-closed” mentality of the prosecutors ultimately reigned in the courtroom, given the judge’s biased handling of the multitude of due process violations that marked the proceedings. The defense’s protestations over the contradictions and outright irrationality of the case were brushed aside by prosecutors and the judge, who refused to address these issues directly. Independent observers visitingthe trial described the proceedings as evocative of the works of Kafka and Gogol and anembarrassment to Russia. Nevertheless, despite each successive setback, the defendants made everyeffort to engage with prosecutors and the court, and they presented a vigorous, methodical, andmeticulously substantiated defense from April 5 to September 22, 2010.Irrespective of the efforts of the defense, which were notably bolstered by the candor of former andcurrent government officials who supported the defendants through in-court testimony, the proceedings continued to be undermined by unfair and unlawful decisions and maneuvers thatirreparably frustrated Khodorkovsky’s and Lebedev’s rights to a fair trial. A feeling of futility reignedin the courtroom as the defense presented its closing arguments in what had become a mock judicial process devoid of meaningful adversarial engagement on the substance of the case.The reading of the verdict was initially scheduled for December 15, 2010 but a note posted on thecourtroom door that day announced a postponement to December 27, 2010. The next day, December 16, 2010, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly intervened in the case during his annual nationally-televised question-and-answer session. With the judge still deliberating on the verdict, the PrimeMinister directly mentioned the current charges and stated that Khodorkovsky’s guilt had been provenin court and that he must stay in jail.
See:http://www.khodorkovskycenter.com/news-resources/stories/khodorkovsky-statement-attitude-towards-charges.See also:http://www.khodorkovskycenter.com/sites/khodorkovskycenter.com/files/21%20April%202009_PLL%20Statement%20Legalisation.pdf . In prepared testimony which Khodorkovsky was not allowed to read in court, andwhich was later published in Newsweek, the defendant stated that he did not understand how the term“laundering” could be applied to oil. See:http://www.khodorkovskycenter.com/sites/khodorkovskycenter.com/files/MBKFactSheetKafkaesque%2014%2009%202009.pd.

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