$100 billion Yukos lawsuit steeped in political drama

Jan. 13, 2014 at 10:59 AM
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MOSCOW, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The former co-owner of Russian oil company Yukos said shareholders would press on with a $100 billion lawsuit against the Russian government.

The company declared bankruptcy in 2006 after the Russian government accused the company of tax evasion, assessing a $30 billion tax on the company and prosecuting many of its executives.

The Moscow Times reported Monday that former co-owner Leonid Nevzlin, who now lives in Israel, said Group Menatep Limited, a shareholder group registered in Gibraltar, "intends to achieve victory in this case and get compensation from the Russian Federation no matter what."

The shareholder group is suing the Russian government in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, claiming the company's demise was politically motivated.

Nevzlin, who moved to Israel in 2003, recently met with former Yukos Chief Executive Officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed for 10 years and who has also said seizing Yukos was political retaliation orchestrated by President Vladimir Putin's government.

Khodorkovsky has said he would not participate in the lawsuit and Nevzlin said their meeting was casual with no business discussion.

Analysts have presumed that Khodorkovsky's release included the stipulation that he not participate in the lawsuit. The Kremlin still has leverage over the situation, as several former Yukos executives remain in jail, the Times reported.

"Yesterday I attempted to talk with Khodorkovsky about the revenues and expenditures of [Group Menatep Limited] and its shareholders but was sharply rebuffed. He is not interested in this," Nevzlin said in a televised interview.

Economist Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin aide, said in a LiveJournal post published on Jan. 9 that the president could have pardoned the former tycoon because he needed his help in reaching a settlement between Yukos shareholders and the Russian government.

Such a settlement might be made in exchange for the release of still-jailed Yukos executives Platon Lebedev and Alexei Pichugin, Illarionov wrote.

"Apparently neither the non-verbal methods of persuasion traditionally applied by Russia nor the work of a highly experienced international law firm have worked in The Hague. There is only one bargaining chip left for [Putin] — Mikhail Khodorkovsky," said former Putin aid Andrei Illarionov in an online posting.

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