Sberbank chief testifies in Khodorkovsky case

The chief executive of Russia's Sberbank and the country's former trade minister, German Gref, has testified at the defense’s request in the trial of former oil tycoon and ex-head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

In the second case against him, Khodorkovsky is accused of embezzlement and the theft of 350 million tonnes of oil in between 1998 and 2003. German Gref, said he did not know about any embezzlement by Yukos at that time.

German Gref, the current head of Russia’s state-controlled Sberbank, added that later he was transferred to a new post in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and had not followed developments of the case.

The hearing was held behind closed doors. When Gref was leaving the court, journalists asked him if his testimony would help Khodorkovsky’s defense. He responded by saying, “I gave evidence to the court, and not in favor of anyone.”

He also refused to give his view of the defense’s arguments, claiming he “was not aware of the essence of the charges”.

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion.

Another high-profile witness, Russia's industry and trade minister, Viktor Khristenko, is expected to testify at the trial on Tuesday.