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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawyer's Jail Time Cut to 6 1/2 Years

Itar-TassSvetlana Bakmina, a former lawyer for Yukos, leaving court on Oct. 17, 2005.
The Moscow City Court on Thursday rejected an appeal to overturn the conviction of Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina, but slightly reduced her 7-year prison sentence to 6 1/2 years, a court spokeswoman said.

The sentence handed down against Bakhmina, 36, in April for embezzlement and tax evasion was reduced by six months after an appeal by her lawyers, said Anna Usachyova, the court's spokeswoman.

Her case is one of many investigations into Yukos managers, but her jailing has provoked particular criticism because she has two young sons.

The length of the prison term makes Bakhmina, a former deputy head of Yukos' Moscow legal department, ineligible for release under a current amnesty for mothers sentenced to prison terms of six years or less.

The court threw out the tax evasion charges on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired, but Interfax quoted Bakhmina's lawyer as saying that he believed that his client's sentence should have been reduced by half.

The court that originally handed down the sentence, the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow, had "equated the rank-and-file employee Bakhmina with the convicted organizers of the crimes," Alexander Gofshtein said, referring to imprisoned Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev were sentenced to nine years each on tax evasion and fraud charges in May 2005. Those sentences were later reduced to eight years.

The Simonovsky court found Bakhmina guilty of embezzling some 8 billion rubles ($290 million) of assets belonging to Yukos subsidiary Tomskneft in the late 1990s. Bakhmina has denied the charges since her arrest in December 2004 on the grounds that actions she took were at the behest of superiors.

Judges in April refused to give Bakhmina a suspended sentence. Courts have the option of freeing mothers of young children on compassionate grounds.

During the investigation and trial, Bakhmina was refused bail and prevented from speaking to her two young sons by telephone.

"The court exaggerated my role in the crimes of which I was found guilty," Bakhmina told the court in April, Interfax reported.

Throughout her detention and trial, Bakhmina argued that her position at Yukos had not given her the powers to make it possible for her to commit the crimes she was accused of.

Her lawyers had appealed against the court decision, seeking an acquittal. The Moscow City Court, however, only agreed to drop the tax evasion charge and reduce the prison term, counting from the date of Bakhmina's arrest.

Lawyers for Bakhmina made no comment Thursday and it was not clear whether they would pursue the appeal to the Supreme Court.

(AP, MT, Reuters)