Oligarchs to Lose Through Non-transparency?

The RF General Prosecutor's Office plans more arrests at Yukos
To all appearances, the searches in offices related to the Yukos oil company have turned-up considerable results: now prosecutors have new questions to ask the already known personages. The case filed against the head of Platon Lebedev has been declared as finished. As for the case against the head of the Yukos-Moscow managing company, Vasily Shakhnovsky, the Prosecutor's Office plans to complete it next week. Investigators are sure that Vasily Shakhnovsky practices tax evasion as an individual person. This, in its turn, has no connection to the transparency or non-transparency of Yukos. The General Prosecutor's Office has more questions to ask Mikhail Khodorkovsky (it is said that in the nearest time he will have to undergo interrogation) and other top managers of the oil company. Does it mean that more arrests are to follow?

As for Platon Lebedev, it is the court that is now to decide whether he is guilty or not, the investigation is over. The situation of Vasily Shakhnovsky is rather unfavorable as well. The situation is rather peculiar as he is being prosecuted not as the head of the managing company which is obviously so much transparent that prosecutors do not want to focus on it. He is being prosecuted as an individual person who evaded tax payment during the period of 1998 - 2000. At that, if necessary the personal earnings of the man within the above mentioned period may be classified as bribes. Today, prosecutors doubt that Vasily Shakhnovsky actually rendered legal consulting services for which he was paid.

Russia is not that intolerant of tax-dodgers as the US where even suspicions of tax evasion may ruin the most brilliant career. If tax evasion is proven, this may sound as a death penalty for people in the West. As is known, even omnipotent leaders of the Italian mafia quit the "business" for ever if jailed for tax evasion. The sum announced in connection with Vasily Shakhnovsky, 29 million rubles, is unprecedented for Russia. What is more, it is not ruled out that this is prosecutor's trick to continue the attack Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Co. 

Yesterday First Deputy Prosecutor of the Russian Federation Yury Biryukov held a press-conference and told journalists about further plans of the Prosecutor's Office with respect to Yukos. He said it was necessary to summon Mikhail Khodorkovsky for a second interrogation because the first time he was interrogated in connection to the Platon Lebedev's case. Now the case of Mr. Lebedev is to be reviewed by a court, but prosecutors need to interrogate top-managers of the oil company. This is the issue, they say, they want to discuss with the oil tycoon. In particular, they will touch upon machinations and tax evasion by Yukos itself.

Yury Biryukov added that the investigation is now to be focused on the private earnings of other Yukos managers. The investigation has information claiming that they "have had fabulously high profits and evaded tax payment" as natural persons. This is the same approach that is being used with respect to Vasily Shakhnovsky.

Being in public, Mikhail Khodorkovky is uncommonly brave; he behaves as a hero. He classifies actions of the Prosecutor's Office as mean and wicked intentions. At the same time, his relations with the government, the Duma and the president are good. He said yesterday, he managed to reach compromises with the authorities. Does it mean that the Yukos head may make a very tempting proposition to former KGB officer, the incumbent president Vladimir Putin to solve his problems? As we see from the examples of other oligarchs, this is hardly likely.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is continuously saying that he is fighting not for himself but for everyone. It sounds that if he is defeated, Russia will sink into an eternal polar night. Some time ago, statements of this kind were made by Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky. They overestimated their efforts, and the situation in the country has not seriously changed either.

Even though the government and the oil company have problems, the government and the president particularly need a compromise with Russia's largest oil company. At the same time, the authority wants the oil company to know its place and to do what is required.

Author`s name Margarita Kicherova