Yukos scandal continues with new raids and new charges to be brought against Mikhail Khodorkovsky

It goes about the legalization of fraudulently amassed fortunes estimated at $7 billion

Russia's Office of the Prosecutor General announced a new series of searches and withdrawals of documents in banks and firms linked with the stricken Russian oil giant, Yukos. Yukos's key shareholders, the former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, have already been sentenced to eight years in jail.

According to the official information from the Office of the Prosecutor General, investigators of the office and officers of the Department for Economic Security of the Russian Ministry for Internal Affairs have raided offices of the law firm ALM-Feldmans, Investment Bank Trust and Yukos-FBC (which provides accounting services for the oil company). Spokespeople for the above-mentioned departments did not specify either the reason or the objects of the new searches. It became known later that the raids were connected with the legalization of money, which several Yukos employees had obtained fraudulently.

It is noteworthy that the Office of the Prosecutor General promised six months ago to bring more charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. Now investigators have apparently decided to keep the promise and start acting.

Official spokesmen for the Office of the Prosecutor General promised to bring new charges against Yukos on May 13 and 31. “It goes about the legalization of fraudulently amassed fortunes estimated at billions of rubles. Huge sums of money have been embezzled,” an official spokeswoman for the office, Natalia Vishnyakova said back then. Investigators specified the claims later and said how much money exactly Khodorkovsky and Lebedev had managed to launder. “We have the information that certain top managers and employees of the oil company Yukos embezzled about $7 billion and wired the money abroad in 2000-2003. Investigators have identified the schemes that had been developed to plunder the oil income and subsequently launder it,” a statement from the Office of the Prosecutor General said.

It would be logic to surmise that the prosecutors' readiness to bring more charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev instigated yesterday's raids in the offices of Yukos-linked companies. The fact of the raids is not new though. Press services of the searched companies confirmed the raids, but it was said that investigators visit their offices on a regular basis in connection with the investigation of the Yukos case. “It is not clear why the events have been represented as breaking news. The measures taken by special services do not affect the activities of the banks,” a statement from one of the raided banks said.

The true reason of the current investigation is most likely linked with events happening in foreign states. Officers from the criminal investigation department of the Justice Ministry of the Netherlands and several spokesmen for the Russian Office of the Prosecutor General have recently visited the office of Yukos's branch company in the Netherlands, YUKOS Finans B.V. This Amsterdam-based company governs the entire foreign property of Yukos. The company established another organization in April of the current year – YUKOS International B.V. The new company reportedly concentrated shares of other enterprises of the oil giant to make them inaccessible to Russian authorities in the event the latter decided to use those funds to clear Yukos's giant tax debts. A consortium of foreign crediting banks of Yukos is currently taking a legal action against YUKOS International B.V. to unblock its assets.

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Author`s name Olga Savka