Khodorkovsky begins Irish court action to unfreeze €100m

Russian ex-magnate claims he has answered all Garda questions about source of money

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man and now a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, has said an Irish court should unfreeze €100 million of his assets, or tell him what he has done wrong.

Mr Khodorkovsky told The Irish Times that he has answered all the Irish authorities' questions about the source of the money, which was frozen five years ago under money-laundering legislation.

The former banking and oil magnate, who spent 10 years in a Russian prison until his release three years ago, will today make an application to the courts in Dublin to have the funds released.

Mr Khodorkovsky, who now lives in London, said he “perfectly understands” why the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation acted in 2011, following an attempt to move the money out of the country.

"At that time, I was still in prison and, naturally, I wasn't able to provide the necessary explanations to the authorities. I think generally that fighting money laundering is the right thing to do and now we are advocating for close attention to be paid to money coming out of Russia, " he said.

Under money-laundering legislation, the courts can, at the request of the Garda, make 28-day freezing orders, and the order made freezing the money being claimed by Mr Khodorkovsky and others has been repeated on a monthly basis since the original 2011 ruling.

Mr Khodorkovsky said the frozen funds were the product of dividends from Yukos Oil and the sale of shares in the company, which he controlled until Russian president Mr Putin moved against him in 2003.

In prison

“That’s the source of the funds. It’s very clear. If for whatever reason there is a question about the source, then I would like the court to tell me what the question is, and let’s look at it further.

“And if there are no more questions, then I expect to be given the money back and I will have no further questions about why this money had been frozen for such a long time. This is obviously because I was in prison and I was not able to provide answers to these legal questions before,” he said.

In July 2014, a court in the Hague ruled that the Russian government deliberately bankrupted Yukos to seize its assets; and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have dismissed the Russian charges against Mr Khodorkovsky as bogus and his trial and imprisonment a travesty of justice.

He said that after he left prison in 2013, he sought to answer detailed questions from the Garda about the source of the funds frozen in Ireland, some of which appeared to be based on the charges made against him in Russia.

“If I had spent those 10 years in my office I would have been able to answer those questions easily. But, unfortunately, I spent those 10 years in prison and all our offices had been raided and looted by the authorities and we had to gather the information, not without difficulty. But, we managed to find the information and provided the answers to your authorities.

“And, naturally, because we answered those questions, now I would like to get the funds unfrozen or to have explained to me what I have done wrong. Because if there are any further questions, let’s talk about it, let’s look at them,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times

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