Russia keeps a former oil tycoon in jail

Anti-Khodorkovsky demonstrators, wearing T-shirts bearing 'Mikhail Khodorkosky (MBKh)-to prison,' hold banners, reading 'Don't buy, but redeem fault,' during a rally outside Moscow city court.


JEREMY HOBSON: The oil tycoon who used to be the richest man in Russia will remain behind bars. A judge this morning found Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty of stealing millions of tons of oil. Needless to say, this verdict isn't likely to improve the business climate in Russia.

Reporter Peter van Dyk joins us now from Moscow with more. Hi Peter.

PETER VAN DYK: Hello Jeremy.

HOBSON: What exactly did judge say?

VAN DYK: Well, we won't get the full verdict for several days but we know now that the judge has found Khodorkovsky guilty of embezzlement and money laundering. He said Khodorkovsky stole the money from his company, Yukos, for his own personal gain. The judge has not issued the sentence yet, but prosecutors want Khodorkovsky to stay behind bars until 2017.

HOBSON: Peter, remind us exactly who this guy is?

VAN DYK: He is one of the so-called oligarchs who became billionaires after Russia's natural resources were privatized cheaply after the end of communism. When he was arrested in 2003 he was seen as a political rival to then President Vladimir Putin. Supporters say it was his political activity that landed him in jail. The Kremlin denies that.

HOBSON: What does this decision say about the broader economic and business atmosphere there in Russia?

VAN DYK: I asked Chris Weafer of Uralsib investment bank that very question. He says the guilty verdict was expected and will change very little.

CHRIS WEAFER: It's not a surprise. From an investors point of view it is what they had assumed. I think those investors that have not been engaged in Russia but were looking for positive signs of change then I guess they'll be disappointed.

And for the most part Western firms will continue to do business in Russia, as will Western governments.

HOBSON: Peter van Dyk, in Moscow, thanks.

VAN DYK: Thank you very much Jeremy.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.


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