Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the head of oil giant Yukos and the richest man in Russia, is to spend the next nine years of his life behind bars after a Moscow court convicted him on a range of tax evasion and fraud charges.
After an 11 month trial, Judge Irina Kolesnikova revealed in a ruling that took 12 days that Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev had been proved guilty on six of the seven charges issued against them.
Kolesnikova indicated that prosecutors had proved that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who also received a nine year sentence, had defrauded the Russian government to the tune of $1 billion over asset sales in the 1990s. The sentences for the two men were just one year short of the maximum attributable in Russian law.
However, many onlookers to the Yukos and Khodorkovsky saga have questioned the purity of the legal process and have argued that the crushing of Yukos with a multi billion dollar retrospective tax bill, the subsequent break up and sale of its most valuable assets to government loyal organizations and the Khodorkovsky sentence is all part of an drive by Russian President Putin to destroy his political enemies.
Khodorkovsky’s legal team has stated that an appeal will be issued in the Russian courts and possibly at the European Court of Human Rights.