Russian prosecutors have charged a fugitive business partner of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky with tax evasion,
A case was opened against Alexei Spirichev who headed fictitious companies and earned over 9 billion rubles ($300 million) by evading taxes. He fled Russia soon after Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003.
“From 1998 to 2001, Spirichev, together with accomplices and under the guidance of Yukos bosses Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, formalized documents containing false information on the activity of fictitious companies dependent on Yukos,” Prosecutor General’s Office spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said.
These documents helped the fictitious companies to obtain tax breaks from local administrations, prosecutors say.
Lebedev and Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, were sentenced to 14 years each in their second court trial in December 2010 for embezzlement of oil and money laundering. The term included the seven years they had already served after their first trial in 2003 for tax evasion and money laundering.
The pair were moved to a pre-trial detention center in Moscow in August 2010 and stayed there until their second trial finished in November.
Their lawyers appealed against the detention, citing amendments to the criminal code adopted in April 2010 which abolished pre-trial detention for economic crimes. The Russian Supreme Court upheld the appeal.
Lebedev and Khodorkovsky have both denied all the charges against them, claiming that the Yukos case was politically motivated by Russia’s powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for Khodorkovsky’s sponsorship of opposition groups in the early 2000s. The Russian authorities have categorically denied the claim.