Yukos security chief is found guilty of murder

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Kremlin's rancorous confrontation with the oil giant Yukos entered dangerous new territory when state prosecutors asked a Moscow court to jail the former head of security at the firm for life after he was convicted of murder.

The Kremlin's rancorous confrontation with the oil giant Yukos entered dangerous new territory when state prosecutors asked a Moscow court to jail the former head of security at the firm for life after he was convicted of murder.

Yukos lawyers said the move was designed to further blacken the image of what was once reckoned to be Russia's most successful company. They also said it boded ill for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former chief executive of Yukos, who is on trial on fraud and embezzlement charges.

Alexei Pichugin, the former head of security, denied wrongdoing. But on Thursday a Moscow court found him guilty of organising the murder of Sergei and Olga Gorin in 2002. Their bodies have not been found but Mr Pichugin is said to have hired a mafia group to kill them. He was also found guilty of attempting to murder a former adviser to Yukos called Olga Kostina. He allegedly had the Gorins killed because they had threatened to tell police what they knew of the failed hit on Ms Kostina.

But prosecutors had said Mr Pichugin was acting on the orders of Leonid Nevzlin, then Mr Khodorkovsky's right-hand man and now Yukos' main shareholder after his old boss transferred his stake to him. Mr Pichugin's conviction strikes at the heart of what little is left of the Yukos empire, stripped of its main production unit and driven to the verge of bankruptcy by destructive back-tax claims from the Russian state. Mr Nevzlin, wanted by the Russian authorities, is in Israel.

"If we don't get the verdict annulled by the Russian Supreme Court, then we will take it to the European Court," Mr Pichugin's lawyer, Grigory Kaganer, said. He told journalists he was prevented from defending his client.

Comments