European Court Finds ‘Violations,’ But Clears Russia Of Deliberate Effort To Ruin Yukos

The European Court Of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that Russian authorities committed violations in connection with the bankruptcy of oil giant Yukos in an eagerly awaited case in which the company is seeking $98 billion in damages from the Russian government.

But the court cleared Russia of the charge that it aimed to destroy Yukos and did not rule on the issue of compensation in the long-running battle.

Yukos wanted the Russian government to repay the value of its assets and loss of profits, as well as taxes, fines, and penalties that the company was charged, as it was liquidated in 2007 after years of prosecution.

In its complaint to the European human rights court, Yukos said Russia’s leadership under Vladimir Putin unjustly targeted the company over tax issues.

The Strasbourg judges found that authorities in the Yukos case failed to adhere to safeguards enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, including by not allowing sufficient time to prepare for trial over tax penalties and committing other procedural wrongs, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported.

But the court rejected the complainant’s argument that Russian officials had discriminated in the case, RFE/RL’s Russian Service said. Nor had they exceeded their authority under the convention’s Article 18 on detention and other permissible restrictions, according to the court.

It said there was “no indication” that “Russia had misused those proceedings to destroy Yukos and take control of its assets.”

Yukos’s former chief, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is now imprisoned in Russia for fraud and tax evasion. His supporters say he was prosecuted for posing a political challenge to Putin.

The case is not formally related to the cases of Khodorkovsky or his former business partner who is also serving jail time, Platon Lebedev. Both men have lodged complaints with the same court concerning their treatment at the hands of authorities, according to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

The $98 billion sought by Yukos from the Russian government is more than double Russia’s annual defense budget, and is the largest amount of damages ever sought in the European human rights court.

The ruling by the court’s nine-judge panel is binding.

compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports

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