False start with a certificate. The cause celebre in the criminal case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev was delayed. The website Prigovor.ru reminds its readers of what happened on June 16, 2004.
On this day 18 years ago, on June 16, 2004, in the Meschansky District Court of Moscow the beginning of the process was planned against Mikhail Khodorkovsky*, Platon Lebedev and Andrey Kraynov on charges of a whole series of crimes in the economic sphere.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were accused of committing crimes under seven Articles of the Criminal code of the Russian Federation. They were accused of committing fraud on a large scale as part of an organized group, as well as of not executing court’s rulings, inflicting damage to property of other people, embezzlement of assets entrusted to them, evading of paying taxes both as legal and physical persons and forging of documents.
However, the last point, connected with forging of documents, was excluded in the course of the proceedings in court, as it was decided that it was “excessively imputed”, because the mentioned criminal action was part of the tax evasion episode.
The third defendant of the case, Andrey Kraynov, was charged under three Articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – swindling on a large scale as part of an organized group, fraudulent non-execution of court’s decisions and inflicting damage to property belonging to other people.
Initially, the cases of these defendants had been in separate proceedings. Yet, on June 8, 2004, the mentioned criminal cases were consolidated in a single case – to make “evaluations of substance” of these cases more convenient. Agreed with that were all - the side of the lawyers, of the prosecution and the court. The hearings were planned for June 16, 2004.
A PAID-UP SHOW IN COURT AND NEAR IT
The press and “non-indifferent activists”, warmed up by the press service of Nevzlin, tried to make out of the beginning of the process a yet another show. The technical service of the court prepared a more spacious room – it was an open process. Yet, surprisingly enough, there were not more than a dozen places available for reporters. The rest of space, devoted initially for reporters, were taken by foreign guests and Western lawyers of the swindlers from Yukos. They had no orders for participation in this process, but they still let them in the courtroom in the capacity of onlookers.
Outside the court, a parallel reality was being created: conditionally free “spontaneous” crowd scene, comprising of about twenty “non-indifferent activists”, was forcing an open door, demanding “a real open process”, which, even without posters, was declared open.
The foreign press didn’t lag behind in its impulsiveness. Readers were threatened with “ominous Soviet times” and “persecution of dissidents”, and, as it was inculcated in the audience, “the whole world” was concerned about the tricksters Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, because Moscow could move away from “democratic values”, frighten all foreign investors, and then Russia could face serious economic and social problems. “During the trial of Khodorkovsky, Russia is charging itself”, it’s like this that “The Financial Times”, a respectful newspaper, to all appearances, reflected the “paid-up” emotions.
FALSE START WITH A CERTIFICATE
In a word, the show was prepared on all fronts. For that purpose, a vast amount of efforts and means were spent. Still, the process in the Meschansky District Court was stopped before it even began. The lawyer Yelena Liptser said that, in connection with the illness of the lawyer Genrikh Padva, the trial should be postponed and set on another date, until “the convalescence of the lawyer Genrikh Padva”, who had to be operated. The Meschansky District Court of Moscow, having studied the presented certificate from a hospital, granted the request.
The motions of the defense counsels on immediate liberation of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev from custody were dismissed by the court – the arguments of the defense turned out to be unconvincing.
Some observers viewed all that happened as a certain play with the purpose to drag down the begin of court proceedings – some criminal episodes in the case of the swindlers Lebedev and Khodorkovsky had a perspective to be excluded from the case due to expiry of the terms of limitation. Above all, it was the affair with the shares of the ore-dressing and processing enterprise “Apatit”, which had allowed Khodorkovsky’s organize criminal group to grab the strategic management of the company and had generated a lot of other crimes which became a subject of criminal investigation”, noted the website Prigovor.ru.
(See also the previous article “On this day, the mayor of the town Nefteyugansk declared a hunger strike”. “I, Petukhov V.A., the head of the town Nefteyugansk, protest against cynical actions and murderous policy conducted by oligarchs from the OJSC “Rosprom-Yukos” and bank “Menatep”. The website Prigovor.ru reminds its readers of what happened on June 15, 1998).
*On May 20, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice included M.B. Khodorkovsky in the list of physical persons executing functions of a foreign agent.