A lawyer for jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam, (right) said on Wednesday his client would fight government claims that oil giant Yukos evaded taxes and accused the government of interference in a planned oil merger. Russia tax authorities have reportedly sent a letter to the Prosecutor General’s office saying that Yukos, which Khodorkovsky once headed, owes around $5 billion in back taxes, accumulated interest and penalties.

“This recent act is part of an attempt to silence Mr. Khodorkovsky but it will do just the opposite – it will embolden people working for him to seek from western governments the condemnation this attack on the rule of law deserves,” Robert Amsterdam, a Toronto-based lawyer, told reporters.

Amsterdam said he would intensify his lobbying efforts in Europe.

The lawyer denounced Khodorkovsky’s arrest as a breach of human rights. He demanded Western governments bring a case before “European courts and international institutions.”

Amsterdam said government involvement had cast doubt on a planned merger of Yukos with a smaller Russian oil company Sibneft. The planned merger was suspended Friday amid speculation that Sibneft was taking advantage of Yukos’ weakness to push for greater influence over the merged company – which would be the world’s forth-largest oil producer.

“The Yukos-Sibneft merger was a done deal. Any questions hanging over it relate solely to political interference at the highest level,” Amsterdam said.

He said western governments should refrain from signing agreements with Russia and stall its entry into the World Trade Organization.

Khodorkovsky was arrested in October on charges of tax evasion and fraud. Prosecutors froze his 44 percent of the Yukos shares and he subsequently resigned as head of Yukos.

If Khodorkovsky can’t receive a fair trial in Russia, Amsterdam said the case could eventually be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

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