A tax crime to the total amount of 17 billion 395 million 449 thousand 282 rubles. The website Proigovor.ru reminds its readers of what happened on May 26, 2005.
On this day 18 years ago, on May 26, 2005, the Meschansky District Court of Moscow continued the pronouncement of the verdict on the criminal case against the former head of the oil company NK Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky,* head of the International Financial Association “Menatep” Platon Lebedev, and former general director of the CJSC “Volna” Andrey Kraynov. They were accused of criminal activity in the economic sphere.
On the eleventh day, the court completed the chapter of the multipage verdict which had been started on the eve, and which was devoted to how, actually, the swindler-billionaires had been pulling off their scheme of tax evasion as physical persons under Article 198 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. At issue was the providing of “consulting services” through the offshore firms “Hinchley Ltd” and “Status Services Ltd” (the Isle of Man). Having started with Khodorkovsky as physical person, the court announced the part of the verdict devoted to the tax dodging executed by Platon Lebedev. The court held as proved the guilt of Lebedev and found the arguments of the defense as unfounded. And the position of the defendant Lebedev himself the court identified as “an attempt to escape responsibility for his conduct. Thus, the court pointed out, “Lebedev P.L. in the period 1998-200 evaded paying taxes and levies to the total amount of 7 269 276 rubles”, and adjudged Lebedev guilty under Article 198 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
CROSSWORWS IN THE COURTROOM
The defense was exasperated, and assured that “Lebedev and the defense have repeatedly presented evidence that he didn’t provide consulting services”. What, actually, was this evidence, remained off screen”. “It’s a moving argument (of the court) that, until 1998, you (Lebedev) had paid taxes, but it doesn’t exclude that after that you started to avoid paying them”, said indignantly Konstantin Rivkin. It’s difficult to say what kind of moving stuff can be found in the logic, where a person, initially, obeys the law, and then, having received from the legal department of the oil company NK Yukos the scheme of optimization through offshore “consulting”, starts to break the law.
The lawyer Yelena Liptser, in her turn, said the defense has “a feeling of a complete farce from hearing of the verdict”. In her words, “the pronouncement of the verdict has been so slow, that the health conditions of Lebedev, up to the moment of completion of it, can worsen sharply because of the constant presence in the stuffy courtroom”.
As to the “health condition of Lebedev”, the defense expressed concern then, when difficulties with arguments of legal character emerged. According to the version of the lawyer Robert Amsterdam, with which he had entertained long before the verdict, Khodorkovsky and Lededev were not to make it to court. Luckily, everything worked out fine – “seriously weakened Khodorkovsky” constantly smiled, demonstrating his rosy cheeks, and “dying and blind” Lebedev was vigorously doing crossword puzzles just in front of the press that savored his ailments.
“BEARS WITNESS OF DEPENDENCE ON EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT…”
Having analyzed the episode with the tax machinations of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as physical persons and having adjudged them guilty of the charges brought against them, the court passed on to a more complicated episode of tax crimes – to the episode of the charges against Khodorkovsky M.B. and Lebedev P.L. under Article 199 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Evading Payment of Taxes and (or) Fees Collectible from Legal Entities).
In this case, the defendants were regarded as heads of companies what either had been fraudulently evading paying taxes, or had been paying them with monetary surrogates. At issue was the tax evasion of the companies controllable by them in 1999-2000 in zones with tax preferences, which had been working in the so-called closed administrative-territorial units (ZATO). During the proceedings, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, blinking honestly, tried to convince the court that they had nothing to do with scheme of tax machinations on territories of ZATO, learned about them only from materials of the criminal case, and were not familiar at all with anybody from the leadership of these shell-firms.
However, the court didn’t believe the version of these “borehole” swindlers, as words of the defendants could not outbalance not only witnesses’ testimony, but also the documentary block of proofs on this case – from elementary legal connections of these shell-firms with the Oil Company NK Yukos, which had been launched and serviced by the finance and legal departments of Yukos, up to very curious nuances connected with the proceedings of the case.
For instance, according to the verdict, in the materials of the criminal case, “there are files with documents entitled: “Chernikova”, “Vladislav’s report”, “AS”, from which follows that the nominal directors – Chernikova, Kartashov, Spirichev, after interrogations at investigators offices, provided full verbatim reports to the Security department of the OJSC “Yukos-Moskva”, and that also bear witness of their submission to the leadership of the mentioned company”.
(See also the Verdict of the Meschansky District Court of Moscow of May 16, 2005, on the criminal case of Khodorkovsky M.B. and Lebedev P.L.)
“Thus, the court held as proven the guilt of Khodorkovsky and the guilt of Lebedev pertaining to tax evasion as legal entities. The court held that, during 1999-2000, under the direction of the group organized by Khodorkovsky, on behalf of the shell legal entities OJSC “Business-Oil”, OJSC “Mitra”, OJSC “Wald-oil”, OJSC “Forest-oil” it had been made possible to evade payment of taxes to the total amount of 17 billion 395 million 449 thousand 282 rubles. As is known, the given sum of money Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, that the court obliged them to clear, has not been paid until know”, noted the website Prigovor.ru.
(See also the previous article “On this day, the court established guilt of the “phony consultant” Khodorkovsky”. “Khodorkovsky M.B. didn’t execute activities of providing consulting services to the companies “Hinchley Ltd” and “Status Service Ltd”. The website Prigovor.ru reminds its readers of what happened on May 25, 2005).
*On May 20, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice included Khodorkovsky M.B. into the list of persons executing functions of a foreign agent.