MOSCOW, January 16 - RAPSI. The Khamovniki District Court overstated in its ruling the money laundering claim against former YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, the Moscow City Court's presidium has ruled on Wednesday.
The district court wrongfully included 5.5 billion rubles ($185 million) in taxes and duties evaded by the two businessmen in the amount that they received from laundering their revenues from oil theft, according to the court. However, funds received through tax evasion should not be seen as having been "laundered," the court stated, adding that financial and other transactions with such assets should not lead to criminal responsibility.
"Lebedev and Khodorkovsky purposefully neglected their constitutional duty to pay taxes by including false information about non-existent tax benefits in their income declarations," the presidium said. "As a result, their taxes payable to the federal budget ended up in their own accounts as impersonal income and were added to the amount that the defendants used for their continued illegal dealings aimed at legitimizing their illegal income. This means that the money obtained through tax evasion has been included in the amount used for money laundering, and this is against the law."
The decision was issued based on a law prohibiting prosecution for laundering income received through tax evasion. The defendants should not be considered as having been tried on the same charges following their conviction, the court said.
The Moscow City Court removed the amount stated in their conviction. Now, the figure only indicates the amount obtained through laundering revenues from oil theft.
In 2005, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. In late 2010, a Moscow district court sentenced them to 14 years in prison for oil theft and money laundering. They were expected to be released in 2017, considering the time they had already served for their previous convictions from their first trial. In May 2011, the Moscow City Court then reduced their sentences by one year.