Former Yukos CEO Khodorkovsky found guilty of embezzlement


(JTA) — Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been found guilty of embezzlement and theft.

The conviction against the former head of the Yukos oil company was handed down by a judge in Moscow in a closed court room on Monday, the New York Times reported. He faces up to 14 years in prison, with credit for time served on a previous conviction.

Khodorkovsky’s business partner, Planton Lebedev, was also found guilty on the charges. The trial began in March 2009. The men were accused of stealing billions of dollars’ worth of oil from Yukos production subsidiaries from 1998 to 2003,

Khodorkovsky, who is Jewish, was formerly the richest man in Russia.

He was sentenced in 2005 to eight years in prison on charges of tax evasion and fraud. The trial stifled one of the most prominent anti-Kremlin voices at the time, and resulted in Yukos being dismantled and sold off in state auctions.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Khodorkovsky "should sit in jail" — a comment that has been seen by some as interference in the trial. Putin was president during the first trial. Khodorkovsky, a major opponent of the Kremlin, had plans to run for the presidency himself, according to reports. Putin has expressed an interest in running for president again in 2012.

Charges ranging from tax fraud to murder are facing other former Yukos officials, including Leonid Nevzlin, who fled to Israel to avoid the charges.

In a statement released Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the verdict, adding that the United States would monitor the appeals process.

"Today’s conviction in the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev on charges of embezzlement and money laundering raises serious questions about selective prosecution — and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations," said Clinton. "This and similar cases have a negative impact on Russia’s reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate."


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