Russian prosecutors said on Tuesday they had passed a new case against the jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to a Moscow court, opening the way for a new trial of the former Yukos oil giant chief.
Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was in 2005 handed an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion in a case that has caused international controversy.
The businessman and his jailed former associate Platon Lebedev are suspected of new cases of embezzlement and illegal financial operations carried out between 1998 and 2003, prosecutors said in a statement.
“Today the criminal case, along with incriminating evidence, were handed to the Khamovniki district court of Moscow for examination in depth,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
In an interview with Rossiskaya Gazeta to be published yesterday, Russian prosecutor general Yuri Chaika emphasised the gravity of the new charges.
“I am sure that the proof that has been assembled means that there can be no doubt about the guilt of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev,” extracts published by Interfax quoted him as saying.
The pair’s lawyers also confirmed they had received a 14-volume indictment signed by deputy prosecutor general Victor Grinia.
“The bureaucrats of the security forces have wasted many years, huge sums of state money and they own reputation by fabricating these ridiculous allegations,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of carrying out illegal operations worth 896 billion rubles (US$25 billion) between 1998 and 2003.
“These are particularly grave crimes,” Chaika said.
Russia has insisted it is dealing with Khodorkovsky fairly and that he committed financial fraud on a massive scale.
However rights campaigners and some international observers have said the charges have been trumped up to punish the former billionaire for his opposition to former president turned Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
A Russian court in August rejected a request from Khodorkovsky for parole, citing a refusal to take part in a prison training program as one reason for refusing parole.