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Former tycoon accused in murder of Siberian mayor as 1998 case is re-opened

By Olga Gertcyk
02 July 2015

Fallen oil executive who dreams of political power named by investigators as 'new evidence' comes to light.

Pardoned and released in 2013, he now lives in Switzerland where he fronts a Russian democracy movement that aims to challenge Vladimir Putin.  Picture: Komsomolskaya Pravda

A tycoon jailed for tax evasion after funding opposition parties has been accused of murder in a high-profile case involving the death of a Siberian mayor. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the now defunct YUKOS oil firm, was once one of Russia’s men until being sent to prison in 2005.

Pardoned and released in 2013, he now lives in Switzerland where he fronts a Russian democracy movement that aims to challenge Vladimir Putin.

But he could soon find himself back in court once more after being named by investigators as being involved in the murder of a politician in 1998.

Prosecutors have announced they are re-opening the case with 'new evidence' that links Khodorkovsky to the killing of Nefteyugansk mayor Vladimir Petukhov.

It was on June 26, 1998, that Petukhov was gunned down as he made his way to his office in the city. There are two main versions for his murder: some believe he was shot because he started a conflict with Khodorkovsky’s firm YUKOS, others insist the mayor was killed by gangsters who operated a local city market that he had shut down. 

Following a lengthy investigation at the time the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation brought assassination charges against Aleksei Pichugn, an employee of Yukos’s security service in 2005. He was convicted in 2005 and is serving a life sentence.

Vladimir Petukhov

It was on June 26, 1998, that Vladimir Petukhov was gunned down as he made his way to his office in the city. Picture: Pyt-Yakh Online

Now Khodorkovsky, who celebrated his 52nd birthday last week, finds himself at the centre of the 17-year-old murder case.

The head prosecutor Vladimir Markin said: 'The decision to re-launch a criminal investigation regarding the murder of Nefteyugansk mayor Vladimir Petukhov has been made because of new circumstances discovered.

'According to information at the disposal of the investigation committee, the head of YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, could have been behind this murder and several other major crimes.

'Within the framework of the investigation of the criminal case actions will be taken to discover the people involved in the crime, including interrogating witnesses and suspects, and most likely Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be among them.' He added: 'I think that his absence from Russia won't be an obstacle for conducting all the necessary investigatory actions with him.'

Khodorkovsky had made an estimated $15billion fortune from the controversial privatisation of Soviet state assets in the early 1990s.

A month before his death the mayor had accused YUKOS, which was based with his city, of tax evasion that had resulted in a funding crisis for the local government budget.

Vladimir Petukhov

Memorial to Vladimir Petukhov opened in Nefteyugansk in 2014. Picture: Dmitry Sherf

Without enough money to pay state employees, Mr Petukhov went on a hunger strike and demanded municipal and district tax officials be dismissed from their positions.

He also called for a criminal case to be made against YUKOS.

Khodorkovsky has not chosen to keep quiet about the allegations against him and in an unusual step has taken to Twitter to send messages to the head investigator.

He also posted comments on his personal Facebook page, making a direct challenge to Vladimir Markin to prove him guilty as he reiterated his innocence.

The businessman wrote: 'Guys, you can re-open and invent new criminal cases, spend an insane amount of money on presentations of stupid books about me, 'photo-shop' my photos and display them, threaten my supporters, [and] set troll factories on me.

'You can come up with a million ways to put pressure on me. I. WILL. NOT. STOP. So be aware of that.'

Tweets


Tweets

Khodorkovsky has not chosen to keep quiet about the allegations against him and in an unusual step has taken to Twitter to send messages to the head investigator. Pictures: Twitter

Leonid Nevzlin, the former co-owner of YUKOS, said he believed the timing of the proceedings were intended to embarrass Khodorkovsky and weaken any political aspirations.

He said: 'This announcement seems a PR campaign [of the Russian authorities] directly related to June 26, Mikhail’s birthday.

'I don't believe in such coincidences. For 15 out of the 17 years that have passed since the murder Khodorkovsky was in total control of the authorities. He's never been hiding. Any court will release the person from responsibility in such case. They know it.'

Comments (1)

Russian Law mostly stinks...this reopening of the case is in my opinion, political. Please Mr Prosecutor's, any chance you would get on with the case of who is behind the Boris Nemtsov murder...or is that on the back burner till the year, "DOT"?!

PS. Answers on a postcard, please!
Jaker, Dundalk.
03/07/2015 22:20
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