Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been found guilty of embezzlement at his politically charged second trial in Moscow. The judge ruled that Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were guilty of stealing from their firm Yukos and laundering the proceeds.
As the two men were lead into the courthouse, their supporters chanted “Freedom”.
But, freedom was not what the two men received.
Once in the court room, both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev watched behind a glass cage as the verdict was read.
The judge said that the defendants were guilty of embezzlement, acting in collusion with a group of people and using their professional positions for financial gain.
Khodorkovsky’s defense lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told the press that the verdict was unjust and the accusations were false.
He said that the defense team had no doubt that the court was pressured and the court did not make an independent decision.
Currently serving an eight year sentence after being found guilty of tax-evasion and fraud, Khodorkovsky was expected to be released from prison next year. But the new sentence could keep him behind bars for another ten years according to legal experts.
Despite the high media attention of the case, critics like Nikolai Petrov, at the Moscow Carnegie Center, think that the verdict – and what it signifies – is hardly surprising.
“If it tells about the state of the legal system, it tells that the state is absolutely the same as it used to be,” Petrov said. “So there are no positive changes at all.”
Chris Weafer, the Chief Strategist at the financial corporation UralSib, believes it will have little effect on the foreign investment climate in Russia.
“Investors – those who are already engaged in Russia and those that are looking at Russia as a potential investment location in the future – I think they are much more concerned about what the government is doing with corruption or improving the business climate,” Weafer said.
Delivering the full verdict and sentence is expected to take several days. Khodorkovsky’s lawyers have already said they will appeal.