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Dublin court unfreezes €100 million worth of Russian tycoon's assets after five year battle

Judge Timothy Lucey also warned gardaí to be careful about what they put in their applications as people had been murdered for political reasons.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

A DUBLIN COURT today unfroze €100 million worth of assets belonging to the former richest man in Russia following a money laundering investigation.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled Russian oligarch and founder of the Yukos oil company, had the monies frozen in 2011 as he was imprisoned in Russia for fraud, embezzlement and money laundering – charges which he said were politically motivated.

Today, Judge Timothy Lucey ordered that he have access to the funds ruling that gardaí had provided no firm evidence of money laundering after five years of investigation.

Judge Lucey said extending the order freezing Khodorkovsky’s Irish assets couldn’t be legally justified.

Regarding what was contained in garda applications to the courts, Judge Lucey stated the gardaí should be careful, adding:

People have been murdered and it has been politically motivated.  So we should be very careful about what we say about people and what we put into any application as an add-on to boost our side.  We are dealing with people’s lives.

Ireland froze the funds in 2011, while Khodorkovsky was still imprisoned in Russia, at the start of a probe into whether the money had been illegally laundered from Russia via a Gibraltar-based investment company.

Russia Khodorkovsky Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky sits in a courtroom behind bars in Moscow, Russia in 2004. Source: Sergey Ponomarev/PA

Former justice minister, Michael McDowell, representing the gardaí, said the investigation was continuing and involved recent police trips to Moscow to liaise with fraud investigators there.

Granted asylum

Khodorkovsky, who has been granted political asylum in Britain, said the ruling vindicated his position that President Vladimir Putin had orchestrated a campaign to vilify him after he founded a pressure group, Open Russia, committed to promoting democracy in Russia.

In a statement this evening, Khodorkovsky said he “will use some of the funds to support the work of the Open Russia movement, which was founded in 2014″.

He spent over 10 years in jail from 2003 to 2013 on politically motivated charges. In May 2011, he was declared a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International.

In Moscow, the lead lawyer investigating unresolved allegations against former Yukos executives accused Ireland of offering encouragement to corporate thieves on the run from Russian justice.

“Today’s decision to release the funds will encourage others to do what Khodorkovsky did: Conceal their stolen assets beneath multiple layers of shell companies and offshore trusts for many years,” a Kremlin spokesman said in a statement.

With reporting by AP

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