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29 Jan, 2009 23:24

Yukos case reaches Strasbourg, after five years

Five years after proceedings began, the case of failed Russian oil giant Yukos has finally reached the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Russian tax services accused Yukos of evading some $US 7 billion in taxes and the court will now decide if the claims expressed by the company will be heard.

Yukos claimed its property was unfairly seized and appealed to the European court in 2004.

The company was once one of the world's largest non-state oil companies, producing 20% of Russia’s oil and about 2% of world oil production.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia and Yukos CEO, was arrested in 2003. In 2005 he was convicted of multiple charges, including tax evasion and fraud, and sentenced to eight years in prison.

In late 2006 a second criminal case for money laundering was brought against Khodorkovsky, whereupon he was moved from the penal colony in the Chita region, where he had been serving his sentence, to a detention centre in the same region.

Another former Yukos official, Leonid Nevzlin, has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for murder and attempted murder. He’s now living in Israel, which refuses to extradite him to Russia.

And former Yukos Vice-President Vasily Aleksanyan, who suffers from AIDS and cancer, was released from custody in 2008 due to his seriously deteriorating health after paying a 50 million rouble bond ($US 1.7 million).

Many in the West say the case has been politicised. They openly call Khodorkovsky and his colleagues political prisoners, while Kremlin insists no political reasons are behind the Yukos case.