MOSCOW, December 20 - RAPSI. The Presidium of the Moscow City Court reduced the sentences of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his former business partner Platon Lebedev in a hearing for their appeal for supervisory review of the sentence both are currently serving out on oil theft and money laundering charges. They will be eligible for release in 2014.
Both men will continue to serve out sentences of 11 years, rather than the 13-years they had been serving prior to today’s hearing.
The case of the two former YUKOS Oil business partners has been one of the most high profile in Russia over recent years.
In the early 2000s, the government accused YUKOS executives Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev of tax evasion. YUKOS, then the country's largest oil company, went bankrupt and its assets were taken over by Rosneft. Many in the West believe the case was politically driven. Moscow denies these charges.
In 2005, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion.
With their sentences almost fully served in 2010, a Moscow district court sentenced them to another 14 years in prison for oil theft and money laundering. They were expected to be released in 2017, taking into consideration the time they had already served for their previous convictions from their first trial.
However, the Moscow City Court reduced their sentences by one year in May 2011.
During Thursday’s hearing, Khodorkovsky’s lawyer argued that the two men were essentially charged twice for the same crime, but he called shenanigans on the logical implication of this. Specifically: if his client stole oil, how could he have evaded taxes on that oil? If his client was seen as having been guilty of oil theft, how can he have evaded taxes on the stolen merchandise?
Furthermore, Khodorkovsky’s attorney argued that the more recent sentences weren’t fully offset by the time the men served prior to the second conviction; rather they were only offset by time served since the second arrest.
Lebedev’s attorneys challenged the amount of time it took to schedule supervisory review proceedings and noted that the European Court and the European Parliament viewed the case as politically motivated.
The prosecutor argued to the contrary that the proceedings were error-free, but opined that their sentences should be reduced to 11 years and three months based on amendments to the criminal code that would retroactively serve to mitigate the sentences.