MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian authorities are pursuing more evidence against associates of Mikhail Khodorkovsky which might produce a third round of charges against the jailed former oil tycoon, a newspaper quoted a prosecutor as saying Monday.
Jailed since 2003, Russia’s once richest man was convicted of a second set of offences last month which delayed his release by seven years until 2017. That provoked international criticism and complaints from supporters at home that the Kremlin was turning the judicial system against its political opponents.
Asked by Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper whether Khodorkovsky could face yet more charges, an unnamed prosecutor was quoted as saying that further evidence might come to light against him and his partner in the now defunct Yukos oil firm, Platon Lebedev.
“Right now 18 of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev’s colleagues are on the wanted list,” the daily quoted the official as saying.
“If in the course of our search for them new evidence of crimes is uncovered, the investigating agencies will be required to announce additional charges and send the case to court.”
Khodorkovsky’s oil empire produced more crude than Qatar at the height of its success before he ran afoul of then president, now prime minister, Vladimir Putin by funding opposition groups and speaking out against widespread, high-level corruption.
Prosecutors have said the case is not politically motivated, and demonstrates the strength of Russian rule of law.
A top aide to President Dmitry Medvedev expressed fear that Khodorkovsky’s second ruling last month may hurt investment in Russia at a time when Moscow is keen to attract foreign money into its energy, banking and infrastructure assets.
Reporting by Thomas Grove, editing by Alastair Macdonald