A Dutch court of appeals has confirmed the historic ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (CPA) that condemns Russia to pay compensation of 46,200 million euros to the shareholders of the former Russian oil group Yukos , for "forcing" the bankruptcy of this company in 2006.
Yukos was owned - until expropriation - of the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovski , currently exiled in London. He was arrested in 2003, convicted of several economic crimes and sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of tax fraud and large-scale fraud. The billionaire argues that he was the victim of a planned campaign from the Kremlin to support the opposition at the beginning of the past decade. That arrest came after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the oligarchs that they should not get into politics. Khodorkovski was pardoned in 2013 by the current Russian president. As soon as he left prison he left the country, but from abroad he has continued to intervene in Russian politics. His partner Platon Lebedev spent more than 10 years in prison.
The decision on Tuesday annuls the previous one, of April 2016, which revoked an unprecedented ruling: that the Russian State had to pay that millionaire amount to the former shareholders of the multinational Yukos. It was in 2014, when Russia was condemned by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international jurisdiction based in The Hague, to pay them compensation of $ 50 billion. The Russian authorities refused to release a ruble.
Moscow has rejected accusations of orchestrating the dismantling of Yukos for political reasons. Russia "will continue to defend its legitimate interests and, in an appeal to the Court of Cassation, will challenge this verdict" of the Dutch court, according to the Ministry of Justice in a statement.
The complainants do not criticize the attitude of the government side during the judicial process. "Its strategy is to distort to complicate everything and forget the greatest expropriation of the 21st century," Emmanuel Gaillard, representing the former shareholders, told AFP.
The rise of Rosneft
The company, which was the main oil producer in Russia , was declared in judicial liquidation in August 2006, after a controversial trial. Now the old shareholders are trying to get some compensation for the losses caused by the dissolution of Yukos, which was sold in pieces. The majority fell into the hands of the Russian public oil group Rosneft , a modest-sized company, which has become - thanks to the assets of the dismantled dismantled group - a global giant. It is currently run by a trusted Putin man, Igor Sechin. Both have known each other since the years when Putin studied in Leningrad. Sechin was his assistant at the City Hall of St. Petersburg.
Both have set up a new role for the energy sector in Russia, in which hydrocarbons are primarily at the service of the country's geopolitical interests, and only later are they a source of profitability for companies. The rise in energy prices served to cement Russia's economic growth last decade. This is how Putin is seen in Russia as the guarantee of stability after the painful premiere of capitalism in Russia in the 1990s.
Upon arriving at the Kremlin in 2000, Putin opted for the battered Rosneft, (depauperada during the financial debacle of President Boris Yeltsin) as a platform to turn oil into a government asset. Yukos, of which Putin came to say that "he accumulated too many reserves", had a predominant position. Khodorkovski dared to accuse Rosnetf of corruption in a televised meeting of businessmen with Putin, who broke out in anger and suggested that Yukos was not at peace with the Russian treasury. Khodorkovsky's environment suggested that he follow the path of other businessmen fallen out of favor and go abroad, but the tycoon thought he was too powerful to fall.
Almost two decades of struggle
The 'Yukos case' has turned in favor and against each of the parties. In the first instance, a Dutch court had ruled that the CPA was not competent to judge this case and impose compensation. It was based on the circumstances surrounding the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), which protects international investments in energy projects: "The Russian Federation has signed the ECA, but has not ratified it," explained the Dutch justice in 2016. That meant that the decisions of the CPA were, therefore, "contrary to Russian law."
Moscow has played the trick of illegality of origin. "Russia estimates that the acquisition of Yukos was only possible through corruption and other illegal actions," government lawyers said.
The company undertook the privatization between 1995 and 1996 , recalls Andrea Pinna, who defends the Russian government. It was during those years following the fall of the USSR when some well-known businessmen accumulated immense fortunes and empires buying Soviet assets at low prices. This was especially true in the raw materials sector. Khodorkovski was one of those who enriched themselves in a context of general impoverishment of a disoriented population in the face of the new economic system. Before being hated by the Kremlin for being a political hindrance, Khodorkovski - just like other 'liberal businessmen' - already had the antipathies of large sections of the population.
But on the side of former shareholders, Emmanuel Gaillard, regrets that "Russia is making many diplomatic efforts to try to discredit" the plaintiffs.
But the case goes beyond a business dispute. Khodorkovsky entered the main stage of Russian power before Putin, in the times when under Yeltsin businessmen not only enriched themselves at the expense of the country but also issued orders to the government. When he took his head, Putin sent a message to the business elite, who has not disputed power again . The men who surrounded Putin when they arrived at the Kremlin agreed to put order in the market, but above all they were people who "had lost that time of benefits, and did not want to miss the next one," says Steven Lee Mayers , author of Putin's biography titled 'The New Tsar'. Almost two decades later, the bill of that 'check and kill' to Khodorkovski is 42,000 million euros.
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