Khodorkovsky’s lawyer attacks European energy firms

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The legal representative of imprisoned former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has called for a formal investigation into the role allegedly played by European energy firms in undermining the rule of law in Russia.

Speaking in Brussels on 5 November, Robert Amsterdam, the lawyer who represents Khodorkovsky, called on the European Parliament to bring together European energy companies to testify before Parliament regarding their lobbying practices associated with Russia’s domestic situation and the rule of law. 

“There are specific European energy companies that have invested in the destruction of the rule of law in Russia,” Amsterdam claimed, urging the Parliament to hold a hearing on the issue. 

These companies have “signed deals in Russia and then lobbied their home states not to strengthen law in Russia but to weaken [it],” the lawyer stated, going on to say that “they profit from no rules [in Russia]”.

Amsterdam called on the Parliament to “find out from Total what they said to the French government, why ENI bought Yukos assets that were knowingly tainted and why they engaged in asset laundering [and to] ask BP how much they spent on lobbying Whitehall and what were they doing”. 

“The first thing we need is transparency [and] we need to understand the role of so many of these Western companies that have actually supported some of the worst in Russia,” Amsterdam explained. 

In response, centre-right MEP Christopher Beazley (EPP-ED) recalled that “Total and other European companies have been investigated for their activities in the African countries”. 

“This degree of transparency is a serious undertaking and leads to some very serious action. So, if we can do that in one part of the world, we can presumably do it in another part of the world,” Beazley argued. 

Accusations rejected

A spokesperson for BP said the petrol company had “categorically stated that it is not a political entity, it is a commercial entity”. 

“BP’s investment in Russia has purely been a commercial transaction that is in the interest of shareholders and it is to the benefit of Russia,” the spokesperson stated. 

A Total spokesperson declined to comment.  

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a Russian businessman and owner of oil giant Yukos. He was arrested by the Russian prosecutor general's office in 2003 on charges of fraud. In 2005, he was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison. 

The move was widely condemned by the international community. A wide variety of politicians and businessmen – both in Russia and internationally – consider the trial process to have been largely political given that Khodorkovsky had funded several Russian political parties, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, prior to his arrest. 

In contrast with this view, then-Russian President Vladimir Putin denied playing an active role in the prosecution, saying that the prosecutor's move showed that no-one was above the law. 

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