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19 Mar, 2008 12:40

Ex-Yukos VP stands trial in absentia in Moscow

A Moscow court is hearing the case against the former Yukos Vice-President Leonid Nevzlin. He is accused of being involved in a number of contract killings and attempted murders, as well as tax evasion and fraud. The trial will be held in absentia as Nevz

The court must consider 84 volumes of material during the hearings.

Dmitry Kharitonon, the lawyer who is representing Nevzlin in Russia, says he was not given enough time to study the documents before the trial. He also accused the judge of being biased and having his own personal interests in the case.

“Novikov is personally interested in the outcome of the case,” the lawyer said.

The court said these statements were unfounded.

The Litvinenko case

The prosecution is also suggesting there may be a link between the poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko and criminal cases underway against Yukos executives.

“We have received information that mercury was found in the victims' cars, in their apartments, country houses and offices, and not only in Moscow but also in London.

This and other information discovered by the investigation leads to a possible connection between two criminal cases: the killing of Aleksandr Litvinenko and the attempted murder of businessman Dmitry Kovtun, and the case accusing a number of Yukos executives of committing serious and exceedingly grave crimes against the life and health of humans,” said Marina Gridneva, from the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Nevzlin has admitted he met Litvinenko shortly prior to his death but dismisses the new accusation as a continuation of political games.
Other murders

Prosecutors will also describe how Nevzlin ordered the murder of Vladimir Petukhov, Mayor of the west Siberian oil town of Nefteyugansk. Petukhov was gunned down in June 1998 when he and his bodyguard were walking to work. Investigators allege the motive for the killing was Petukhov’s attempts to recover taxes that Yukos owed to the city.

“They started openly threatening my husband. They employed all gangster methods to intimidate him,” said Farida Islamova, Petukhov’s widow.

In the same year, an attempt was made on the life of the East Petroleum Company’s boss, Evgeny Rybin, whose car was rigged with a bomb. Rybin has filed a number of lawsuits against Yukos, claiming the oil company owe him more than $US 100 million.

Nevzlin maintains his innocence and, in fact, accuses Rybin of blackmailing and falsifying documents against Yukos.

Another killing Nevzlin was allegedly behind was that of Valentina Korneeva, a Moscow businesswoman, in 1998. Korneeva refused to sell property in central Moscow to the Menatep Group, which at the time controlled over 50 per cent of Yukos.
Former Yukos Security Chief, Aleksey Pichugin, was sentenced to life imprisonment last August for organising all these crimes. During the Pichugin trial, Nevzlin was named as the person one who’d ordered the contracts.
Nevzlin claims he is a victim of a campaign against those linked to Yukos’ founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Nevzlin fled the country for Israel in 2003, where he remains in self-exile. Nevzlin was put on the international wanted list in July 2004. Israel has refused to extradite him to Russia, saying more evidence was required.