Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prosecutor: Khodorkovsky's words prove his guilt

October 14, 2010 (Associated Press). Prosecutors said oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's own testimony has proven his guilt, as closing arguments got under way Thursday in his 20-month-old fraud trial. Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and is on trial in a second case on charges of fraud and embezzling $25 billion in crude oil. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 more years in prison after his initial term expires in a year.He denies all charges in the politically driven legal onslaught.

Photo1. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is seen behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, is serving an 8-year prison sentence on tax evasion charges and faces decades more if convicted on a new set of embezzlement charges in his second trial currently under way.
The criminal cases and the bankruptcy of his Yukos oil company, once Russia's largest, are seen as punishment for challenging the power of Vladimir Putin, who has led Russia since 2000, first as president and now as prime minister.Prosecutor Gulchekhra Ibragimova told the Moscow court on Thursday that Khodorkovsky's own testimony points to his guilt. She cited his acknowledgement of sanctioning stock swaps between Yukos and some regional companies that prosecutors deem illegal.Khodorkovsky, looking pale and dressed in a worn-out black suede jacket and black slacks, made notes while listening to the prosecutors' arguments. Khodorkovsky's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told reporters during the recess that prosecutors have no real evidence, which is why "they produce flows of words, senseless and inconherent."Putin's successor, President Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to reform Russia's judicial system, which suffers from endemic corruption and is subject to political influence. Khodorkovsky's ability to receive a fair trial has been seen as a test of Medvedev's commitment to reform and willingness to break with Putin's policies.Putin has not softened toward Khodorkovsky.
Photo2. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is escorted to a court in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. (AP)
In recent months he has responded angrily to questions about the former Yukos chief executive, suggesting he deserves no leniency because he "has blood on his hands." This is a reference to the former Yukos security chief and a former business partner who have been accused of organizing contract killings in the 1990s to further the company's interests.The verdict is not expected for several weeks. The defense team said it expects closing arguments to continue through the end of next week and then for the judge to call a recess for no less than a month before issuing a ruling.