Prosecutors called Tuesday for the maximum prison sentence for the former chief executive of the Yukos oil company as the highest-profile criminal case in Russia’s post-Soviet history drew to a close.
Prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin asked a Moscow court to find Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty on tax evasion and other charges after plowing through evidence in a marathon two days of closing arguments. He said that Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, should each be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“Khodorkovsky and Lebedev committed crimes consciously, over a protracted period of time,” Shokhin told the court. “The crimes committed showed a heightened social danger.”
Shokhin read at high speed though the evidence, occasionally eliciting laughter from Lebedev and Khodorkovsky, who sat taking notes in the courtroom cage where they have observed the entire trial. They were flanked by four dozing guards.
The two men have been the target of a lengthy court process stemming from the allegedly illegal acquisition of shares in a major fertilizer-component maker in 1994. Shokhin said that the statute of limitations on the fertilizer case had expired, but asked the court that the men be sentenced on a raft of other charges including tax evasion and document fraud.
Observers view the criminal case against Khodorkovsky and a parallel $28 billion back tax case that has shattered his Yukos oil empire as politically driven.
Khodorkovsky has repeatedly denied that he is guilty of any charges, and argues that the prosecution has neither demonstrated his involvement in the events or shown that they even constituted a crime.