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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawyers Call Yukos Raids Illegal

MTThe scene at Yukos' business center on Friday. Prosecutors knocked down a wall to remove a server they say weighed a ton.
ZHUKOVKA, Moscow Region -- A day after prosecutors raided Yukos-related offices, lawyers on Friday condemned the searches at the business center in the suburb of Zhukovka, saying the documents seized by investigators will not hold up in court because they were confiscated illegally.

The investigators searched the office of the lawyer of jailed Group Menatep director Platon Lebedev on Thursday, following a trail of alleged tax evasion by Menatep, which controls 61 percent of Yukos.

The lawyer, Anton Drel, who also represents Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said his ability to defend his client has been severely impeded.

Drel said investigators took hundreds of files, a computer, confidential personal material, such as his tax declarations, and, most importantly, files on the Lebedev case and other clients not related to Yukos.

Prosecutors denied they took any files on the Lebedev case. They said they were collecting information on Yukos' international financial transactions to track funds they said were accumulated through tax evasion. They said Drel was more than just a lawyer for Lebedev, acting as a consultant for Yukos transactions with offshore companies.

"I am not a Yukos lawyer," Drel said. "But I don't deny that I am Mr. Lebedev's lawyer and Mr. Khodorkovsky's lawyer, and as part of my legal profession, I consult them in regard to those things that they ask of me."

It was the second time prosecutors had searched the Zhukovka building. During the first raid, on Oct. 3, they searched the office of Vladimir Moiseyev, a childhood friend of Khodorkovsky and the head of Menatep subsidiary GML Management Services S.A., which owns the building. The same day, prosecutors searched a Yukos-sponsored orphanage, also headed by Moiseyev. Prosecutors have described Moiseyev as "the head of Yukos' financial transactions abroad" and said they believe funds acquired through tax evasion where channeled through GML.

After a press conference held by Yukos and Menatep lawyers on Friday, Yukos bused journalists to the Zhukovka business center to see the damage prosecutors caused. One wall was knocked down to remove a server.

Moiseyev, who was in his Zhukovka office, refused to speak to the journalists.

During Thursday's raid, prosecutors also searched the office of State Duma Deputy Vladimir Dubov, a Menatep shareholder. Lawyers said the search violated the deputy's right to immunity from prosecution. Genri Reznik, head of the Moscow attorneys chamber, who also attended the press conference, said prosecutors are "openly wiping their feet on the State Duma."

In searching Drel's office, Reznik said they "infringed upon the very foundations of the legal profession."

Prosecutors said the search was legal because the office that Yukos claims belongs to Dubov actually was used by programmers. "A piece of paper that said 'Deputy Dubov's Office' on it was taped to the door leading to these rooms," Interfax quoted Prosecutor General's Office spokeswoman Natalya Vishnyakova as saying.

When journalists arrived at the Zhukovka center on Friday, the door to Dubov's office had been removed and was leaning against a shelf in the middle of a mess made by investigators the previous night. They demolished a wall to take a server labeled Sibintek out of a room adjacent to Dubov's office that appeared to be a computer center.

Vishnyakova said the server contained Yukos financial data and weighed almost a ton.

Drel denied this, saying Yukos had no servers in the Zhukovka center. Sibintek is a software company spun off from Yukos in 1999 and currently part of the Menatep holding. It was raided by prosecutors in August.

Thursday's raids ran parallel to a separate investigation at Yukos headquarters in Moscow, where investigators searched the offices of Yukos security official Alexei Pichugin, who was arrested in June on charges of murder and attempted murder.

Interfax cited Vishnyakova as saying the search uncovered Yukos schemes to push out its competitors by initiating criminal cases against them. Yukos denied it had been involved in any such activities.