Mikhail Khodorkovsky case told of Garda trip to Moscow

Trip part of investigation into possible money-laundering of funds domiciled in Ireland

Mikhail Khodorkovsky: has made an application in the District Court for the unfreezing of funds first frozen in March 2011 under Irish money-laundering legislation. Photograph: Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mikhail Khodorkovsky: has made an application in the District Court for the unfreezing of funds first frozen in March 2011 under Irish money-laundering legislation. Photograph: Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Gardaí travelled to Moscow to discuss the case of former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky with the Russian prosecuting authorities, a Dublin court has heard. The trip was part of an ongoing investigation into possible money-laundering involving funds domiciled in Ireland with a value of about €100 million.

Mr Khodorkovsky, once one of the richest men in Russia, was jailed in 2003 as part of a process that saw him being stripped of most of his wealth. He was released 10 years later following international pressure and now lives in London.

Considered one of the foremost critics of Russian president Vladimir Putin, his conviction was widely condemned as politically motivated. He is a former Amnesty prisoner of conscience.

Mr Khodorkovsky has made an application in the District Court for the unfreezing of funds first frozen by the court, on the application of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, in March 2011, under Irish money-laundering legislation. The funds have been the subject of repeated 28-day freezing orders, granted on an ex-parte (one side only) basis.

On the third day of the hearing, Michael McDowell SC, for An Garda Síochána, said it was not the case that no investigation was under way into the suspected money-laundering. Garda officers went to Moscow for four days and dealt with the prosecuting authorities there. He did not say when the trip occurred.

Mr McDowell said the bureau had reasonable grounds for suspecting the money might be linked to crime. The basis for this was the “predicate acts” behind the Russian convictions.

Mr Khodorkovsky and his former associate, Platon Lebedev, were jailed for tax evasion, embezzlement and theft, all associated with the former Russian oil company Yukos, the assets of which were seized by the Russian state at the time of the men’s convictions.

Remy Farrell SC, for Mr Khodorkovsky, said the men’s two sets of convictions were mutually incompatible as the first were for evading tax on the profits of Yukos and the second were for stealing the oil of Yukos during the same period. If the second set of convictions were assumed, there would have been no profits to tax.

Mr Farrell said “no one in their right mind considers that there is any prospect of a charge of money-laundering being brought against Mr Khodorkovsky”. The convictions were politically motivated and “procured by an authoritarian, kleptocratic state”. He told Judge Timothy Lucey that the court should not allow the continued “persecution” of Mr Khodorkovsky.

Mr McDowell said there was nothing before the court to substantiate any absence of good faith on behalf of the Garda.

The case is likely to conclude on Thursday.