Irish attitude on Khodorkovsky ‘a national shame’
District Court hearing application by Russian oligarach to unfreeze €100 million
Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the defendants’ box during a court session in Moscow in 2011. Photograph: Denis Sinyakov/Reuters
Ireland’s attitude towards the disputed convictions of the Russian former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky “should be a source of national shame”, a Dublin court has been told.
The Garda “is the only government agency in the free world that seems to take the view that these convictions are valid,” the court was told by counsel for the exiled former billionaire , who is considered one of the foremost critics of the Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Remy Farrell SC was addressing Judge Timothy Lucey in an application where Mr Khodorkovsky is seeking the release of more than €100 million, frozen since March 2011 by the District Court, on the application of the Garda Bureau Fraud Investigation (GBFI).
The money, which is in funds held by trusts and domiciled here, have been frozen by way of repeated, ex parte applications for 28-day orders, secured through the District Court, on the basis that they are the subject of an ongoing money laundering investigation.
Judge Lucey remarked that simple, ex-parte applications that might take 10 minutes, had led to the freezing of €100 million. After he had been shown extensive material given to the GBFI by Mr Khodorkovsky in his effort have the funds released, he said he found the situation “very troubling”.
“There is an incredible amount of documentation being given over and it’s never enough.”
Michael McDowell SC, for An Garda Síochána, said the GBFI is operating on the basis that the “predicate acts” behind the convictions that led to Mr Khodorkovsky being jailed for 10 years, were the basis for the ongoing GBFI investigation.
Mr Khodorkovsky was found guilty of tax evasion, embezzlement and theft linked to his Yukos oil company, in convictions that he says were politically motivated. He is a former Amnesty prisoner of conscience.
A range of international bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights, have criticised the 2005 and 2010 convictions. Mr Khodorkovsky, who at one stage held a controlling interest in Yukos, at the time one of Russia’s largest oil companies, has said he was targeted because he was seen as a political threat by Mr Putin and that the multi-billion dollar assets of Yukos were seized by the Russian state in part as a warning to others.
Mr Khodorkovsky was pardoned in 2013 following negotiations conducted by the German Government on behalf of the EU.
Mr McDowell read a copy of the pardon, by Mr Putin, to the court, pointing out that Mr Khodorkovsky had the remainder of his sentence pardoned, but not the convictions. In the pardon, Mr Putin said he was being “guided by the principals of humanitarianism” in pardoning the remaining sentence of the “convicted” Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
When Mr Farrell said counsel for the State now appeared to be relying on the words of Mr Putin, Mr McDowell said he was not doing anything of the sort.
The court was told Mr Khodorkovsky’s solicitor, Dara Robinson, of Sheehan and Co, had told the GBFI his client was concerned the Garda was “acting as an instrument of a universally discredited Russian regime.”
The court has heard that most likely the Irish-domiciled administrator of the funds made a report to the GBFI after discovering that the trust funds belonged ultimately to Mr Khodorkovsky, who at the time was in a Siberian penal colony.
Mr Farrell said that since Mr Khodorkovsky’s 2013 release he had lived in Switzerland and now the UK.
The Russian authorities last year issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Khodorkovsky in relation to the alleged commission of the contract killing of a Russian mayor, Vladimir Petukhov, in 1998. Mr Farrell said the warrant was not accepted by valid by Interpol and the issuing of the warrant led to the UK’s decision to allow Mr Khodorkovsky reside there.
Mr Farrell mentioned that a report in the UK had recently found there were reasonable grounds for believing that Mr Putin had directed the 2006 poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London.
He said it was disturbing the GBFI should have mentioned the recent murder allegation against Mr Khodorkovsky in their applications to have the freezing orders renewed. “Ireland should be pilloried,” he said.
Judge Lucey said the Garda should be careful what they put in applications to the courts. “People have been murdered and it has been politically motivated. So we should be very careful about what we say about people and what we put into any application as an add-on to boost our side,” he said. “We are dealing with people’s lives.”
The case continues.