Russia moves to confiscate millions from disgraced ex-Yukos tycoons

The Prosecutor General’s Office reportedly filed a lawsuit earlier this month with the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow against Khodorkovsky, Lebedev and the defunct Siberian Leasing Company. Initial hearings are scheduled for May 27.

Russian prosecutors have launched legal proceedings to confiscate up to $13 million from former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his longtime business partner Platon Lebedev, according to Russian media reports on Tuesday.

The Prosecutor General’s Office reportedly filed a lawsuit earlier this month with the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow against Khodorkovsky, Lebedev and the defunct Siberian Leasing Company. Initial hearings are scheduled for May 27.

Unnamed sources told Russian news agencies that the case centres around 986 million rubles ($11 million) and $1.8 million still deposited in accounts at National Bank Trust that prosecutors aim to seize.

The legal move marks the latest chapter in the long-running saga involving Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s wealthiest man through his control of the Yukos oil empire before his arrest in 2003 on fraud charges.

Khodorkovsky was pardoned by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 after serving more than a decade in prison. Lebedev, his former business partner at Yukos’ parent company Menatep, was convicted of money laundering and released in 2014 after nine years behind bars.

Russia’s latest attempt to confiscate funds follows the Amsterdam Court of Appeal upholding in March a $50 billion arbitration award to former Yukos shareholders over Russia’s seizure of the company’s assets.

The Kremlin has vowed to appeal that record award, insisting the long-running bankruptcy dispute should not be subject to foreign courts. Tuesday’s legal actions appear aimed at clawing back funds from two of Yukos’ most prominent former executives.

Khodorkovsky, who now resides in London, has maintained his innocence, accusing Putin of orchestrating his arrest and the dismantling of Yukos out of political motivations.

Kremlin critics have alleged the actions against Khodorkovsky and the dismantling of what was once Russia’s largest oil producer were retribution for his political ambitions and criticism of Putin’s administration.

The Russian state took control of key Yukos assets following the company’s controversial bankruptcy, which international arbitration bodies ruled involved violations of Russia’s treaty obligations to foreign investors.

Neither Khodorkovsky nor Lebedev have publicly commented on the new lawsuit targeting their assets. The case could reignite debate over what many viewed as a politically-motivated attack on Russia’s original class of oligarchs who amassed massive wealth through the chaotic privatization of state assets after the Soviet collapse.