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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khodorkovsky Faces 15 More Years

bloombergKhodorkovsky discussing oil pricing policy on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2003.
The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office on Tuesday confirmed that it had brought new charges against former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky that could add 15 years to his prison sentence.

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion, insisted that prosecutors were essentially rephrasing charges of multibillion-dollar embezzlement and money laundering brought against their client in February 2007.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev stood accused of embezzling nearly 350 million tons of oil, and of laundering 487 billion rubles ($20.7 billion) and $4.7 billion.

"They've rewritten the old complaint," Khodorkovsky's lawyer Yury Shmidt said by telephone. "Bringing the [February 2007 case] to trial is something that has not yet been decided, because they have not gotten direct instructions from the Kremlin.

"Now there's a new political configuration, so they've decided to drag it on even further," Shmidt said.

Dmitry Medvedev has made reforming the country's corrupt and inefficient legal system a cornerstone of his young presidency. The legal onslaught against Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev has been widely criticized as politically motivated.

Yukos, once the country's largest private oil firm, was declared bankrupt in 2006, and the bulk of its assets were sold to Rosneft in a series of forced auctions.

Khodorkovsky accuses Igor Sechin, the chairman of Rosneft's board and now a deputy prime minister tasked with overseeing the energy sector, of orchestrating the campaign against him.

In a statement issued late Tuesday on his lawyers' web site, Khodorkovsky said the turn of events "means that the law enforcement agencies do not hope to create an independent judicial system."

The Investigative Committee statement said the new charges were brought under Articles 160 and 174 of the Criminal Code. Those were the same articles used to justify the February charges, which have yet to come to trial, despite a 16-month time lapse. "This allows them to drag on the investigation by a few months, as they hope to get political clarity through a direct order from the Kremlin," Shmidt said. "Without direct support, nothing happens."

He said he did not think the new move by prosecutors was in response to increased talk of a pardon for Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky's lawyers said last week that they were pushing him to ask for a pardon, amid a perceived liberal thaw in the Kremlin under Medvedev.

Had the February charges not been brought, Khodorkovsky would have been eligible for parole in October, after serving half of his sentence. He is currently being held in Chita, 5,000 kilometers east of Moscow. If convicted on the new charges, up to 15 years could be added to his sentence.

Khodorkovsky's mother, Marina Khodorkovskaya, told tabloid Tvoi Den in an interview published Tuesday that she feared for her son's health and safety.

"At our last meeting, he looked bad. Some kind of blotches have appeared on his face," she said, after a three-day visit to the far eastern city to mark Khodorkovsky's 45th birthday last week.

"One thought is driving me crazy — that in that cell something horrible will happen to my son," she said.

She held out little hope for a pardon. "It's doubtful my husband and I will ever see our son free," she told the tabloid.