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YUKOS agony

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The Appeal Court of Paris decided to lift the attachment of property of Russian state companies “Kosmicheskaya svyaz”, “Goszagransobstavennost” and “Ria Novosti”. These assets were earlier arrested based on the lawsuits of former Yukos’ shareholders in pursuance of the 2014 judgments of the Dutch court against Russia for an total amount of USD 50 billion. On April, 20 the politically motivated judgments of the arbitrage were cancelled by the Hague district court. And although the former YUKOS’ shareholders appealed, it looks like they do not have many chances. It is evident, that this issue is now under the jurisdiction of Russian courts: the case of bankrupt shareholders against Russia cannot be examined in Europe. There were no foreign investors in the Yukos capital and therefore any rulings by the Hague court are not legitimate. The attempt to present as foreign investors Yukos beneficiaries, Khodorkovsky and Co. – the most prominent participants of the de-facto thievish privatization – doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Moreover this attempt can be viewed as forgery and, if the case would have been examined in a general jurisdiction court within the British or American law systems, there is no doubts, that the participants of the forgery would have been put behind bars.

The 50 billion suit is falling apart, and no wonder that the team of Leonid Nevzlin is once again trying to reallocate the suit from a judiciary to a political body.

Nevzlin is a former Yukos top manager, considered to be the right hand of the head of the company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and now is an honorary citizen of Israel (the citizenship was, by the way, attributed unlawfully, fleeing from justice, and though the issue was discussed in the Israeli Knesset, it appears that Nevzlin bought himself an immunity).

This week Khodorkovky itself in his twitter response to comments from Vladimir Putin that the funds from the sale of Yukos assets were partially directed to the creation of the Rosnano corporation, accused the Russian authorities that they are performing propaganda preparation to the process in Hague.

But it is the former Yukos shareholders who are brainwashing the public in the first place. What is left for them to do? In a desperate attempt to challenge the decision they are trying to discredit Russian state institutions. According to our sources in one of the Dutch media a biased article is being prepared about the court contradictions between Yukos, the Russian Government and the state-owned Rosneft. And although Yukos and Rosneft in 2015 settled out in court the complete adjustment of all claims, currently Nevzlin lawyers are forced to ‘revive’ the same old arguments, implemented in the last 13 years and which were dismissed by courts of various authorities. The European legal culture is known to be based on court rulings.

The absence of new arguments is an evidence of the weakness of the position of the compliant. If, apart from the already settled, there is nothing to provide to the European public, one can conclude that the former Yukos shareholders are losing control over the situation and cornering themselves. He lawyers, paid by with shres of the non-existent company, are, of course, aiming to succeed, but what they can cling on? Withdrawing their appeal to the Hague Appeal Court, to be examined in the beginning of next year?

There almost no chances that people from Yukos can repeat their 2014 triumph. But they will try to use the same old methods, trying to exploit the political atmosphere, fabricating sensations – just to allure some European journalists, whom will surely use the chance to retell the story of “truth victims”, “offended” oligarchs. But, if earlier the Yukos team fully shaped the European public opinion, by portraying themselves as successful private businessmen, who could not fight against the state behemoth, the latest developments will obscure this image. Step by step the Europeans begin to understand that Khodorkovsky and Co. are no different from Russian oligarchs from the 90-s. It was just yesterday that the Irish police tagged the former head of YUKOS as suspect in the money-laundering case and is opposing to unfreeze it assets, valued more than €100 million. Therefore it is not clear why the European media would need to obey former Russian oligarchs, who did not hesitate to pump out money from the country and ignore numerous criminal offenses, committed by these people.

It is not a secret that YUKOS evaded taxes. This fact is being accepted by all courts, including the Hague court of arbitration. By creating so-called internal offshores, oil producing companies would sell crude for a price closer to their prime cost to other companies they had under their control. The oil would be resold several times within the Yukos system and the money would finally end up in offshore tax havens. The chains of offshore  companies received huge profits which then went back into the pockets of Yukos’ directors.

It is also worth reminding that YUKOS, with reserves consisting of 13 billion barrels of oil by 2003, was acquired by the Khodorkovsky team virtually for free. If we put aside the nuances of the crumbly legislation of Russia in the mid-90s, YUKOS was de-facto stolen; it was one of many companies, banks and businesses sold at questionable mortgage “auctions” to the oligarchs. Both companies bidding for oil assets at auction Volna and Monblan in fact belonged to Group Menatep Ltd, owned by Khodorkovsky. It is no coincidence that in the 90s the New York Times newspaper described the today tagged ‘democracy beacon’ Khodorkovsky, as the “most corrupted oligarch in the most corrupted country”.

The former Prime-minister of Russia, Egor Gaydar, whom is cannot be accused of being biased on this issue, once said that “the West does not understand with whom Russia dealt in the 90s, they do not believe those people were knee-deep in blood”. It is known that apart from the economical part the Yukos case (financial manipulations, fraud, tax evasion) is substantially formed by criminal charges, typical for the business of that time. And, possibly, it is worth reminding to the Europeans, that Nevzlin is convicted in Russia for the organization of contract murder.

Maybe it is worth reminding to the European public that the breaches of law (among others the organization of contract murders by Nevzlin) are established by the court. Why former Yukos managers are being so actively defended in Europe? No second thoughts about relatives of the victims?

In the 90s Nevzlin was in charge of the company's Security Services, which like in other oligarchic structures, was not above anything for the sake goal achievement. In April 1999 the serial killer and rapist Igor Korovnikov, arrested in Tambov, confessed that he prepared an assassination plot of Olga Kostina, former Khodorkovsky PR advisor, who by that time moved to the office of the Mayor of Moscow. Kostina managed to survive just thanks to the unprofessionalism of the performers – they were criminals and not firemen, the air blast of the exploding device was misdirected. This was the time of greatness of Yukos. Ant the case was covered up (it is now funny to hear Nevzlin’s complaints about the Basmanny justice). The Tambov court qualified the attack on Kostina a an act opf disorderly conduct, the former Yukos employee was brought law.

But, perhaps, the most serious crime, performed upon the order of the yukos management, was the murder of the Nefteyugansk mayor, Vladimir Petukhov. Yukos planned to make the city its capital and the company’s crown jewel. Yukos managers balked at paying taxes to the city. As a result in the summer of 1998 the Vladimir Petukhov (former worker and very popular in the city) organized mass protests against new owners of Yuganskneftegas and went on a hunger strike. The situation went out of the company’s control. According to trial contents Yukos had placed a $150,000 bounty on the mayor’s head. And soon, on his way to work, Petukhov and his bodyguard Vyacheslav Kokoshin were gunned down. Citizens started mass protests. They accused the Yukos management of the killing (Petukhov was shot on the Khodorkovsky’s birthday), blocking roads and breaking the windows of the local Yukos branch demanding an impartial investigation into the murder. The investigators, however, started to develop a different theory of the so called “Chechen trail”. Eventually, as one Russian journalist wrote, “The Company managed to break the city.”

Criminal issues in Yukos were dealt with by Alexey Pichugin from the internal security of the company, he was directly reporting to the vice-president and the member of the Board of directors, Leonid Nevzlin. It was Pichugin who ordered the elimination of people disliked by the Yukos management. Later it was uncovered that he cooperated on this issue with true criminals: ‘businessman’ from Tambov Sergey Gorin and citizen of Volgograd Vladimir Goritovsky, performed gross sales of weapons and ammunition.

In the case of Petikhov the performers were the participants of the Volgograd gang – Evgeniy Reshetnikov and Gennady Shevtsov (according to the prosecutors, Gorin agreed with Pichugin the USD 150.000 bounty). The Volgograd group also performed a number of assassination attempts against Evgeniy Rybin, the head of the Austrian firm “East Petroleum HandelsGes”, which signed a long term contract with a Tomskneft prior to the Yukos take over. Yukos terminated the contract and Rybin initiated a number of arbitrage cases, demanding multimillion losses (his compensation he valued at USD 100 million). In the end of 1998 after another round of talks on the issue, Rybin was shot leaving his home on the Udalzova street in Moscow. Several months later his car was shot by a bomb-launcher (his bodyguard were killed). A second group of performers, associated with Pichugin – the members of the Tambov gang – Igor Korovnikov (life sentence for killing and rapings), Mikhail Ovsyannikov, Vladimir Kabanez and Deins Erbes. As already noted, it was them who made an assassination attempt on Olga Kostina. It was them who organized the killing of Valentina Koreneeva, the head of the firm Phoenix, who paid with her life for refusing to sell the rights for two buildings on the Porkovka street in Moscow.

Eventually, almost all of the crime performers were eliminated as unnecessary witnesses. The head of the Volgograd group was slaughtered between garagesб Gorin and his wife killed in their own house, members of the Korovnikov gang – long sentenced in prison.

Today almost all of European human rights activists label Pichugin as a ‘prisoner of conscience’. But they ignore the legal process, where the involvement of Nevzlin and Pichugin in a number of murders and assassination attempts was established. Given that neither the in the ambit of the commercial law, nor the area of criminal law former Yukos shareholders cannot provide arguments, the only thing they have left is to take out the process from a legal body to a sphere of political demagogy. Just today Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Remi Farrel said in court, that by suspecting Khodorkovsky in money laundering, the fraud investigation bureau of the Irish police appears to be acting due to Russian regime’s pressure.

Now on the eve of the court session in Hague one can be sure that the former Yukos shareholders, headed by Leonid Nevzlin will initiate a traditional anti-Russian campaign, hysterically clinging for every opportunity to reverse the development of the case and recover the sympathies of the European media and public opinion. But from an outside point of view it does not look as a rational PR campaign. Looks more like an agony...

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