MOSCOW, December 25 – RAPSI. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin has launched an appeal against the 2005 sentence of former YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev.

Pursuant to the ruling on the civil claim filed by tax authorities, the defendants were required to pay around 17 billion rubles ($551.8 million) in financial losses, a sum including unpaid taxes.

Lukin now says however that it was discovered that one year before the sentence was handed down and tax authorities prevailed, the Moscow Commercial Court upheld a number of claims to recover around 98 billion rubles ($3.18 billion) directly from YUKOS.

“Therefore losses were recovered twice as part of both the criminal proceedings and the commercial litigation (both of which regarded the same matter and the same grounds). In both rulings the court found that the company had used an illegal tax evasion scheme,” the press release issued by Lukin reads.

Double recovery – even if ordered under separate criminal and civil claims – is illegal under Russian law. As a result, the human rights commissioner has lodged a supervisory appeal to change the section of the sentence concerning the civil lawsuit against the convicts and to have it dismissed.

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 company. 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.

In May 2011, The Moscow City Court reduced their sentences by one year.

On December 20, the Moscow City Court again reduced their sentences, thus making Khodorkovsky and Lebedev eligible for release in 2014.