Tuesday 23 January 2018

Judge 'troubled' by way gardaí treated oligarch

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A judge has described as "very troubling" the handling by gardaí of requests by a former Russian oligarch seeking to unfreeze more than €100m in assets held in Ireland.

The funds were frozen in 2011 while former billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky was in prison for tax offences.

The prosecutions were widely considered to be politically motivated and he was eventually pardoned, amid international pressure, by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

However, efforts to unfreeze funds held in various Irish trusts have been resisted by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, which says they are the subject of an ongoing money-laundering investigation.

Dublin District Court heard that huge volumes of documents had been provided to gardaí in an effort to prove the assets were legitimately obtained by Mr Khodorkovsky, but gardaí responded by seeking even more information.

Judge Timothy Lucey said the situation was "very troubling". "There is a huge amount of information being passed over, but it is never enough," he said.

Mr Khodorkovsky claims the funds come from dividends and share buy-back schemes at the Yukos oil and gas company that he once controlled.

His lawyers say the Garda position is that the funds may be associated with the crimes he was jailed for, even though these convictions have been largely discredited.

Michael McDowell SC, for An Garda Síochána, said gardaí had travelled to Russia as part of their investigation, but a file had yet to be sent to the DPP.

The freezing orders have been renewed at the district court on a continual basis every 28 days.

The court heard the grounds for the renewals included Mr Khodorkovsky's convictions and that his pardon related to the remainder of his sentence rather than the offences.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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