Russian prosecutors have launched a series of raids during the past 48 hours at banks, businesses and offices associated with the floundering oil company Yukos and its founder and former chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The raids appear to be the preamble to fresh charges being laid against the jailed oil magnate.
On Wednesday, police searched the offices of Russian companies that did business with Yukos and Dutch police searched the Amsterdam office of a Yukos subsidiary that manages the firm’s overseas assts. Prosecutors said the searches were part of an investigation into a $7 billion money-laundering scheme.
The Russian daily Kommersant reported that new charges against Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year jail sentence for tax evasion and fraud, were imminent.
“Khodorkovsky won’t be surprised by the most absurd new charges that might be brought against him in response to continuing public and political activities,” one of his lawyers, Anton Drel, told reporters Thursday. “For two years we have been witnessing a tragedy of justice. Now it is time for a farce.”
Drel’s law office was also searched as part of the probe. And Thursday, police searched through files and computers at a non-governmental organization, the Open Russia Foundation, which was set up in 2001 by Khodorkovsky to promote freedom and democracy in the country.