Saturday 17 March 2018

'I will be killed if I go home', says former Russian oligarch

Money: Mikhail Khodorkovsky Photo: REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov/Files
Money: Mikhail Khodorkovsky Photo: REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov/Files
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A former Russian oligarch has told an Irish court he fears being assassinated if he returns to his home country.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky also revealed he had been granted asylum in the UK earlier this year owing to "a well-founded fear of persecution" based on his political views.

Mr Khodorkovsky has been a vocal critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He expressed fears for his safety in a written submission to Dublin District Court, which this week heard an application by his legal team for the lifting of freezing orders on over €100m in assets held in Irish-based trusts.

The assets were frozen in 2011 on the application of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) while Mr Khodorkovsky was in a prison colony in Siberia after being convicted of tax evasion, embezzlement and money laundering.

The trials were widely regarded as lacking due process and being politically motivated.

Former oil tycoon Khodorkovsky had the remainder of his sentence pardoned by Mr Putin in 2013, following international pressure for his release.

He has claimed the Irish-based funds were legitimately obtained through dividends and a share buyback scheme at his former oil firm Yukos.

However, lawyers for the GBFI have sought to continue the freezing orders, saying it is investigating whether the funds are linked to money laundering.

The court is due to make a decision in the next fortnight.

In a written submission to the court, Mr Khodorkovsky said: "There have been ongoing threats and intimidation against me leading me to believe that were I to return to Russia I would likely spend the rest of my life in prison or indeed face the very real risk that I may be killed."

Mr Khodorkovsky said he retained Dublin solicitor Dara Robinson to assist the GBFI investigation, and detailed answers were provided to questions posed by detectives. He said officers were provided with "a number of volumes of materials" in respect of the funds invested in Ireland. The questions posed were "very far beyond what might ever be considered as amounting to necessary due diligence for the purpose of satisfying anti-money laundering obligations," he said.

However, gardaí responded with further questions, saying they wished to establish a "clear audit trail" for the funds.

Mr Khodorkovsky said the GBFI investigation was grounded on his convictions in Russia and that gardaí had shown an "absence of interest" in material showing those convictions were politically motivated.

Irish Independent

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