Gardaí sought interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Former Russian oligarch had sought assurances that he would not be arrested

Gardaí sought to interview the former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky as part of their investigation into suspected money laundering involving €100 million, Dublin District Court has heard.

The disclosure was made on the fourth day of an application from Mr Khodorkovsky that freezing orders on the money, first imposed in March 2011, should be lifted. The hearing has now ended and judgment has been reserved.

Mr Khodorkovsky, once one of Russia’s richest business figures, was arrested in 2003 and spent ten years in a Siberian prison colony. Now resident in London, he is one of President Vladimir Putin’s foremost critics. He says the money is not the proceeds of crime.

Mr Khodorkovsky’s counsel, Remy Farrell SC, said the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, which secured the freezing of the money, had yet to seek to interview the former billionaire. However Michael McDowell SC, for the Gardai, told the court his instructions were that they had asked for an interview, but that Mr Khodorkovsky had declined the request unless he could have certain assurances.


“He said he would meet with the Gardai anywhere in the world if they would assure him that he would not be arrested,” Mr McDowell said.

Mr Farrell said this was understandable in the circumstances. “Apparently the Gardaí did not want to interview him.”

The €100 million, which is in an Irish-domiciled fund, has been frozen under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act, which allows for 28 day freezing orders on the basis of ex parte applications to the District Court. The applications can be repeated at the end of each period, on the basis that an investigation is ongoing and there are reasonable grounds for suspecting the money might be linked to the proceeds of crime.

Mr Farrell said the only basis for the Gardaí believing the money could be the proceeds of crime were the 2005 and 2010 Russian convictions of Mr Khodorkovsky, which had been criticised as politically motivated by, amongst others, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights.

Referring to the disclosure that Garda officers had travelled to Moscow where they stayed for four days and met the prosecuting authorities there, Mr Farrell said the Moscow police “must have been delighted that finally a Western police authority was showing an interest in Mr Khodorkovsky”.

Mr Khodorkovsky has told the court, by way of affidavit, that the €100 million came from dividends from the Yukos oil company that ended up in shareholders’ trusts. The money is in an Irish-domiciled fund the custodian of which is an Irish subsidiary of BNY Mellon.

Mr McDowell told Judge Timothy Lucey the Gardai were obliged to conduct an investigation given that they were informed that Mr Khodorkovsky, who was at the time in jail in Russia where he had been convicted of fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement and theft, was the owner of the funds.

“The Gardai are diligently and in good faith carrying on their investigation and not acting improperly in any way,” he said.

Mr McDowell said that in order for the court to grant Mr Khodorkovsky’s application, the onus was on him to prove that there were no reasonable grounds for the Gardai to suspect that the frozen money was linked to the proceeds of crime.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent