A witness on Shakhnovsky’s criminal case: “I don’t know, I don’t remember, I was several times away on business trips with Khodorkovsky and Lebedev”. The website Prigovor.ru reminds its readers of what happened on January 23, 2004.
On this day 18 years ago, on January 23, 2004, in the Meschansky Court of Moscow came to its logical ending the process on the criminal case pertaining to one of Yukos “main shareholders” - Vassily Shakhnovsky. The study of the materials of the case was completed, and, according to the procedure, the oral statements of the parties took place.
In the course of the proceedings, Article 327, paragraph 1, of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, regarding forgery of documents, was excluded from the case – the statuary limitation period was expired. As the result, the key moment was Article 198 of the Criminal Code of Russia – tax evasion of a physical person on an especially large scale.
Naturally, the defense, rejecting all arguments of the prosecution, insisted that its client was innocent "not only because he himself denied his guilt, although he understood, that, were he to admit guilt, he would be let off cheaply, but also because there is no sufficient evidence of his guilt that would allow to pass a sentence", said the lawyer Genrikh Padva trying to convince the court.
The defendant himself who during the pre-trial investigation "could not recall" events that had happened two or three years ago, and instead of that told about his father, who, in 1937, had got into trouble but all had ended well for him in the end. Moreover, he indicated the precise sum of money that he had transferred to the treasury.
“From 2000 I have paid about 10 million dollars as taxes and about the same amount of money I have spent on charitable activity”, said Shakhnovsky pointing out that he didn’t admit his guilt. Apart from that, Shakhnovsky remembered perfectly well that, when he had worked in the Office of the Moscow’s Mayor, their work had been investigated, including by the Office of the Prosecutor General, and he remembered precisely that there had been no claims.
That said, the billionaire Shakhnovsky completely "forgot" about the trick with false "offshore" consulting services which had allowed him to considerably reduce the sum of his taxes. During the interrogation, he said that he "didn't remember" in what form had come orders to provide consulting services.
There were, no “consulting services” with which Yukos managers had covered themselves, and that was confirmed by the details of Shakhnovsky’s interrogation who suddenly started to suffer from “memory lapses”. In particular, he “didn’t remember salary he had received in Yukos. On the other hand, taking his last word in court, he remembered perfectly well that he had paid 10 million of taxes and also had given money for charity. What conclusion would the make court in dealing with such a deliberate and selective memory?
However, from the same forgetfulness suffered another person – a witness of the case, as well as lawyer and interpreter Viktor Prokofyev. Earlier, in court was presented the record of his interrogation as a witness of the pre-trial investigation, as he didn’t turn up in person – he was on a business trip (About Viktor Prokofyev see the section CV “Judicial career”).
Journalists, obviously, kept their fingers crossed for Vassily, as they understood – the scheme of tax evading through the offshore company "Status Service Limited" (the Isle of Man) posed risks to all billionaires among the “main shareholders” of the most “transparent” company – they all “sat” on consultations. Although the tone taken by the newspaper “Kommersant” was a bit playful, the record of the interrogation was very eloquent.
“SIGNED BY AN UNKNOWN MAN, THE HANDWRITING SIMILAR TO MINES”
“So, Viktor Prokofyev, a graduate of the Moscow State University for International Relations (MGIMO), lawyer, personal interpreter of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, and, concurrently, representative of Vassily Shakhnovsky in Tax agencies. He was twice questioned in 2003 by the investigator Khatypov from Salavat Karimov’s brigade.
- Did you fulfill Shakhnovsky’s ledger of income and expenditure?
- The handwriting is similar to mine, but I don’t know to whom it belongs.
- Did you receive from Shakhnovsky a tax commissioner’s letter of attorney?
- I don’t remember.
- You signed the application for the grant of a patent of individual entrepreneur for Shakhnovsky (PBOYL)?
- I don’t know who signed it, the handwriting looks like mine.
- Who handed to you tax documents and other papers from Shakhnovsky?
- Somebody called me from his office, then documents were delivered by a courier”, so were, according to the newspaper “Kommersant” the answers of the layer and interpreter.
“That is, actually, all about the defendant Shakhnovsky. Definitely, the good witnesses who don’t want to bring him home to anything”, concluded the author of the piece Yekaterina Zapodninskaya.
Further questions, which were put by the investigator Khatypov to the lawyer and interpreter, clearly show that the investigator searched for any compromising evidence against Yukos managers:
- What assignments you fulfilled in the USA, France, Great Britain, with whom you met there?
- You went alone or with somebody to Gibraltar, Cyprus, the Isle of Man?
- What for you went with Platon Lebedev to Munich?
- What for you went with Khodorkovsky to Washington in 1994?
- With whom you met in Zurich, Paris, and Dublin and what for?
- Do you know something about the project “Mineral Group”, were you commissioned to gather information about Cyprus companies – shareholders of “Mineral Group”?
- Are there in Yukos other interpreters?
- Did you happen to translate in Yukos documents marked “confidential”?
“I don’t know, I don’t remember, I was several times on business trips with Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, I don’t remember details”, answered the witness Prokofyev. And after this interrogation, according to the information from Yukos, he went on a business trip to Cyprus, where his traces were lost. All in all, from the personal interpreter no witness was made", argued the newspaper, too superficially judging the presented materials.
The member of the US Senate Commission on Foreign Relations Joseph Biden and Andrey Gromyko, USSR's Minister of Foreign affairs before the start of the meeting in the Kremlin. In the center – interpreter Viktor Prokofyev. Photo by Eduard Pesov/TASS
In fact, everything is OK with the memory of Viktor Prokofyev, a high-class professional. From the character of the questions, one can see that investigators had a rather broad picture of Yukos activities. And the "lapses of memory" of the witness, who during the hearings don’t have at all to bring somebody home to something, can specify and assess an investigator, if necessary, and then a court, if it goes that far. Obviously, in the case of Shakhnovsky, the fragmented “lapses of memory” of Shakhnovsky were reinforced by the "lapses of memory" and uncertainty of the witness. And, evidently, all this was not interpreted in favor of the defendant.
“As the result, on the strength of all the evidence, on February 5, 2004, the former president of the JSC “Yukos-Moskva” Vassily Shakhnovsky was adjudged guilty of not paying taxes to the amount of 28.5 million rubles, but he was not sentenced – the billionaire Shakhnovsky during the proceedings discharged the tax debt”, notes the website Prigovor.ru.
(See also the previous article “On this day, Leonid Nevzlin bragged about sources in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Prosecutor’s Office”. Swindler-billionaires were put on a wanted list. Tax-dodgers from the Isle of Man. The website Prigovor.ru reminds its readers of what happened on January 22, 2004.