Ex-YUKOS lawyer warns Russia forum guests

Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:01pm BST

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* Previous YUKOS lawyer says Russia dangerous for business

* Sent e-mail to 1,000 Russian forum participants

By Jessica Bachman

MOSCOW, June 11 (Reuters) - A week before Russia rolls out its largest annual economic forum, an ex-lawyer for YUKOS who currently heads a nonprofit organization promoting transparency in business warned almost 1,000 foreign participants against going into the event with rose-colored glasses.

In a mass e-mail sent late on Thursday, Pavel Ivlev, who fled Russia in 2005 and now leads the Committee for Russian Economic Freedom, reminded participants including Citigroup (C.N) Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit and ConocoPhillips (COP.N) head James Mulva that Russia is an "extremely dangerous" place to do business.

"As you listen to Russian officials and businessmen discuss potential gold mines in investing in Russia, be mindful that there are numerous land mines as well," reads the final line of his e-mail.

Several European leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, are expected to attend the international economic forum, which opens in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg on June 17.

The three-day event is Russia's answer to Davos in Switzerland, where foreign corporate and political leaders come to clinch billions of dollars worth of contracts and hobnob with the creme de la creme of Russia's political and business elite.

Ivlev, a former lawyer for oil firm YUKOS, told Reuters on Friday his e-mail was a "call to action."

"I am not suggesting a boycott of the forum; rather I am calling on the business community to stop being quiet and start speaking out about the lack of transparency and rule in law in Russia," he said by telephone from the United States.

Ivlev worked for an independent law firm in Moscow that represented YUKOS, the former oil giant dissolved by the Kremlin and bankrupted in 2007.

Charges were brought against Ivlev in 2005 for theft, money laundering and helping YUKOS in tax evasion schemes, two years after his client, the company's former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested and jailed.

Khodorkovsky, in prison in eastern Siberia, is now facing a second round of trials, also on charges of theft and money laundering. (Reporting by Jessica Bachman)

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