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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Case of Yukos Fugitives Heard in London Court

Yukos oil company's former deputy chief accountant and a former senior executive at Menatep Bank claimed an attempt to extradite them to Russia to face fraud charges was part of a "coordinated attack" on the oil company and its former chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The Russian government is trying to extradite accountant Dmitry Maruyev and Natalia Chernysheva from Britain on charges they falsified oil and gas contracts to obtain 76 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) from the regional administration of Volgograd. Both are contesting the extradition proceedings at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London.

"This prosecution is in bad faith and for political reasons," Chernysheva's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said at a hearing Thursday. "It is part of a coordinated attack against the Yukos company and Khodorkovsky and those people connected with it."

Russian prosecutors claim company officials set up oil-trading companies that obtained illegal tax breaks from regional governments and embezzled the money.

Yukos says it reduced its tax bills legally.

The hearing at the London court is expected to last two weeks, with a judgment expected in April.

 A jailed in-house lawyer from Yukos oil company has been on a hunger strike since March 3, after she was denied the right to contact her family, her lawyer said Thursday.

Svetlana Bakhmina, the deputy head of Yukos' legal department, was detained for questioning by prosecutors Dec. 8 and has been charged with asset stripping to the tune of $650 million.

Moscow's Basmanny Court ordered in February that her term of custody be extended until May 2.

The 35-year-old lawyer has two young children.

(Bloomberg, AP)