Amnesty Proposed for Jailed Russian Businessmen

MOSCOW, May 25 (RIA Novosti) – Thousands of jailed Russian entrepreneurs may soon walk out thanks to a proposed economic amnesty, though it remains unclear whether it would cover jailed Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Kommersant reported Saturday.

The proposal for an amnesty was pitched earlier this month by Russia’s business ombudsman Boris Titov, but President Vladimir Putin said Thursday the idea was “raw” and in need of revision.

A revised proposal will be drafted “within three to four weeks,” said Andrei Nazarov, who co-penned the initial version of the document, Kommersant reported.

The new bill would cover about half of 13,600 people currently serving prison terms for economic crimes, Nazarov said. Initial estimates by Titov’s office put the figure for businessmen liable for amnesty at 110,000.

Russian business community insists that economic charges are routinely abused by corrupt law enforcement officials who either act on behalf of defendants’ rivals or simply seek to extort money from victims.

Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev proposed last April to amend legislation on fraud and declare an economic amnesty, but the idea was mothballed at the time.

Fraud was included in the first batch of economic charges against Khodorkovsky and his business associate Platon Lebedev, who were jailed in 2005 and are to remain behind bars until next year. Khodorkovsky claimed the case was fabricated on Putin’s orders in retribution for the magnate’s political ambitions, though the Kremlin denied it.

Putin made no demand to exclude Khodorkovsky and Lebedev from the amnesty, Titov was cited as saying by Kommersant.

But some of the proposed revisions of the amnesty bill would see Khodorkovsky and Lebedev dropped from it on technicalities, the newspaper said.


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