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The Prosecutor General's Office could bring new charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky after the New Year holidays
The Prosecutor General's Office could bring new charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky after the New Year holidays, a lawyer for the jailed oil tycoon said Thursday. Speaking by telephone from Chita in East Siberia, where Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev have been taken to face new charges of money laundering linked to Yukos subsidiaries, Yury Shmidt said: "Charges are unlikely to be filed before the New Year." Khodorkovsky, the founder of the now-bankrupt Yukos oil company, and Lebedev have been serving eight-year sentences in Siberia since 2005 for fraud and tax evasion. Shmidt said the businessmen were questioned Wednesday on suspicion of embezzling receipts of Yukos subsidiaries Fargoil and Ratibor, and laundering the money through the Open Russia Foundation, a charitable organization established by Khodorkovsky in 2001 as a private endowment to assist academic institutions and non-governmental organizations in Russia. Shmidt said suspicions were first raised in 2003, when the businessmen were arrested. "We heard nothing new," he said. Khodorkovsky challenged the team of prosecutors and investigators Wednesday on grounds of their "explicit dependence on the Kremlin," a popular Russian daily reported Thursday. "Asked to give evidence as a suspect, he [Khodorkovsky] said he 'does not want to be part of a political farce and does not believe in justice in Russia today,'" Kommerstant said, quoting the lawyer. The former tycoon - who acquired his company during controversial privatization deals in the early 1990s - has insisted his case was orchestrated by the authorities to silence his criticism of President Vladimir Putin and as part of a campaign to bring mineral assets under Kremlin control. Shmidt also told the newspaper the new case was "a logical continuation of selective justice aimed at bringing moral and physical pressure to bear on Mikhail Khodorkovsky."
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