Ex-Russian oligarch to seek release of €100m frozen by Garda

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed by Putin, says money is linked to share dealings

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oligarch who spent a decade in jail before being pardoned by Vladimir Putin, is to make an application to the courts in Dublin next week for the freeing up of approximately €100 million frozen under Irish money-laundering legislation.

The funds were frozen in 2011 by court order at the request of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation,using the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act.

The release of the funds would have political implications, as Khodorkovsky is one of Mr Putin’s harshest and most well-funded critics.

Under money-laundering legislation the courts can, at the request of the Garda, make 28-day freezing orders. The District Court order made freezing the money being claimed by Khodorkovsky and others has been repeated on a monthly basis since the original 2011 ruling, despite efforts by him and his associates to convince the Garda that the money is linked to share dealings associated with the Yukos oil conglomerate, formerly controlled by Khodorkovsky.


Since being pardoned in 2013, the businessman, once considered Russia's richest, has been living in Switzerland and has been a strong critic of Mr Putin's regime. The release of the money could see some of it being used to fund Khodorkovsky's Open Russia movement, which advocates democracy and human rights in Russia and seeks to promote openness and the rule of law.

The money was moved out of Russia in 2003 and ended up in trusts held in the Irish Financial Services Centre. When a decision was made to move the money offshore, in 2011, the matter came to the attention of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, which suspected it might be linked to drug dealing or terrorism. An order was then sought from the courts that the money be frozen.


Since then repeated efforts by the Russians to convince the Irish authorities that the money is linked to dividends and a share buy-back by Yukos in 2003 in the context of a planned merger with Sibneft, another Russian oil conglomerate, have met with no success.

In February 2003, during a televised meeting in the Kremlin with Mr Putin, Mr Khodorkovsky criticised the level of corruption amongst Russian officials. In October of that year he was arrested and charged with tax evasion and other economic crimes. Trading in Yukos shares was suspended and their value, and much of Khodorkovsky’s wealth, collapsed. The businessman, who at one stage was considered Russian’s richest businessman, was found guilty in 2005, with the trial and the convictions being widely regarded as political in nature.

Mr Khodorkovsky is still an extremely wealthy man, with estimates of his wealth ranging wildly and Mr Khodorkovsky himself saying he is worth $100 million, which is at the lower end of the range of speculation. In 2003 Forbes estimated his worth at $15 billion.