Former Yukos chief slams fraud charges as 'absurd'
Saturday 17 July 2004
Speaking from a medieval-looking metal cage in a cramped Moscow courtroom Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man, ridiculed the fraud charges against him yesterday in a powerful
tour de force that embarrassed the Kremlin.
Speaking from a medieval-looking metal cage in a cramped Moscow courtroom Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man, ridiculed the fraud charges against him yesterday in a powerful tour de force that embarrassed the Kremlin.
Addressing his accusers for the first time since he was arrested at gunpoint on an icy Siberian runway almost nine months ago, the articulate oligarch dismissed the plethora of charges as simply "absurd." "I shall prove their groundlessness not only from the point of view of the law ... I will also prove them to be absurd from an ethical point of view," he said.
Charged with fraud and embezzlement to the tune of $1bn, Mr Khodorkovsky claimed he would easily prove his innocence and mounted a staunch defence of Yukos, the embattled oil giant which he used to run.
Facing a series of crippling back tax bills, the company is perilously close to bankruptcy but continues to try to work out a settlement with a so far unreceptive government.
Mr Khodorkovsky has offered to give up a large stake in the firm owned by himself and his associates but his proposal has gone unanswered. Yesterday he said that far from being a tax sinner, Yukos had actually handed over far more money to the state than most other Russian companies.
"It is difficult to understand how a company that is Russia's second biggest tax payer after Gazprom and which was subject to 500 audits a year ... finds out after four years that is has to pay more. In my opinion, society has not had any illusions about the underlying political motives in this case for a long time," he added, referring to oft-repeated claims that the trial is a Kremlin-backed attempt to punish him for his unsanctioned political forays.
Looking gaunt and wearing his trademark T-shirt and jeans the bespectacled billionaire - said by Forbes magazine to be worth $15.2bn - claimed he was a scapegoat for the botched privatisation process of the 1990s. "I will prove that what is happening is an awkward attempt to blame me for the faults of the privatisation laws in the 1990s."
Prosecutors claim that he and his associates were part of a "criminal group" whose sole purpose was to illegally snap up large stakes in major Russian firms during the anarchic auctions of that period.
Mr Khodorkovsky denies all charges.
Platon Lebedev, his close associate who is being tried alongside him on similar charges, also addressed the court yesterday. Looking wan and drained, and said by his doctors to be seriously ill, he claimed the charges against him had been fabricated and that he too was the victim of a political vendetta.
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
General Election 2015: Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind as he casts a line to the disaffected of Grimsby
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...