Russian corruption keeps investors away, imprisoned ex-tycoon warns

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The Independent Online

Widespread corruption and weak rule of law are scaring off investors and increasing the risk of social unrest in Russia, the jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said.

In an internet interview to an economic forum in St Petersburg, Khodorkovsky said Moscow's pitch to investors could fail and it could face mass street protests if the government did not reform the courts and increase freedoms.

Once Russia's richest man and head of its biggest oil company, the now defunct Yukos, Khodorkovsky was jailed in 2003 after criticising the Kremlin when Vladimir Putin was President. He is serving a 13-year sentence for two convictions on charges of economic crimes and is due to be released in 2016.

"As for the rule of law, I know only too well that it does not exist in Russia; the judiciary is not independent at all," Khodorkovsky wrote from jail in the interview posted on the website www.khodorkovsky.ru. The former oligarch, who made his fortune following the 1991 Soviet collapse, denies his guilt and says he has been prosecuted over business practices that were both legal and widely used, such as the pricing policies that prosecutors based theft charges on in his second trial.

The US and European governments have said he appeared to be the victim of selective justice.

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