Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swiss Court Rejects Yukos Files Request

GENEVA -- Switzerland's highest court has blocked a bid by Swiss judicial authorities to give Russia bank documents linked to former owners of the bankrupt oil firm Yukos, the Swiss news agency ATS said Thursday.

The Tribunal Federal, whose ruling is final, accepted the appeals lodged by six plaintiffs, including main owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, to stop the Swiss attorney general from sharing information with Moscow, it said. The Swiss attorney general's office in Berne confirmed that it had lost a Yukos case involving six appellants, but declined to name the plaintiffs, citing confidentiality rules.

The Russian government last week sold the last big asset of Yukos. It was founded by Khodorkovsky, who along with Lebedev is now serving an eight-year prison term on charges of fraud and tax evasion.

ATS reported that the Tribunal Federal declared that the Kremlin had opened the criminal case in Moscow to "sideline declared or potential political adversaries." The judges also cited a "serious and objective risk of prohibited discriminatory treatment" if legal assistance were provided to Russia.

The Swiss attorney general had no comment on the content of the ruling, which reversed its December decision to share the documents with Russia.

In 2004, Switzerland blocked some 6 billion Swiss francs ($5 billion) in assets related to the Yukos case, at Russia's request, said Maria Schnebli, a federal prosecutor in the attorney general's office. These were mainly shares, not liquid assets, she said. But the Tribunal Federal ordered the freeze lifted to a large extent later in 2004, leaving assets worth from 200 million to 300 million francs still frozen in Switzerland, she said.

"The decision now rendered only concerned transmission of documents," Schnebli said. "We have to examine the question of lifting the freeze on assets still frozen."