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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shakhnovsky Stripped of Senate Seat

A federal court in Krasnoyarsk last week upheld a request by Moscow prosecutors to strip a key Yukos shareholder of his parliamentary immunity in the latest legal move against the oil giant.

The ruling by the court in the Siberian city could now leave Vasily Shakhnovsky open to prosecution for large-scale tax evasion, which he has already been charged with. Prosecutors alleged he had evaded taxes to the tune of $965,000 from 1998 to 2000.

Shakhnovsky resigned as head of Yukos' day-to-day operations after a local legislature named him to the parliament's upper house Oct. 26.

The court ruling is the latest twist in action by prosecutors against Yukos in which the company's chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been arrested and detained in jail on charges of tax evasion and fraud. He has since stepped down from his post.

Shakhnovsky has been spared pretrial detention but is prohibited from leaving Moscow.

The parliament of Evenkia, a desolate Siberian region larger than France with a population of under 20,000, voted Shakhnovsky into the Federation Council a day after security police snatched Khodorkovsky from his plane in Novosibirsk on Oct. 25 and flew him to Moscow to be incarcerated ahead of trial.

Prosecutors have made clear they believe his election to parliament was a ruse to prevent them from pressing their criminal case against Shakhnovsky, who owns more than 3 percent of Yukos.

But a source close to Evenkia's parliament said the deputies could hold a revote, making sure all necessary procedures were duly observed.

"It is now being decided if we will go to the end. Then we will hold another session on the same issue observing all the formalities mentioned by the prosecutors," the source said by telephone.

Evenkia, one of Russia's poorest regions, has huge untapped oil reserves, which Yukos is first in line to exploit.

News that Shakhnovsky had lost his immunity came as President Vladimir Putin, at a Russia-EU summit in Rome, faced European officials suspicious that Yukos may be the target of a Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to punish Khodorkovsky for his political ambitions.

(AP, Reuters, MT)