Marieluise Beck

Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestags

Initial conclusions based on observation of the trial of Khodorkovsky/Lebedev

The very legal nihilism which Medvedev vowed to fight before taking office can be seen in the court room in Khamovniki, where the proceedings are now being concluded in the second trial against Khodorkovsky/Lebedev. This trial is characterised by numerous contradictions and infringements of the basic principles of a fair trail based on the rule of law.

This trial is characterised by  numerous contradictions and infringements of the basic principles of a fair trail based on the rule of law.

The following points should be emphasised in particular:

1. The trial has been based from the outset on fabricated charges: the prosecutors accuse the two men of theft of a large quantity of oil. There is no stolen property and no victim. Both the Yukos concern and its subsidiaries made a profit. The idea of a victimless theft has a Kafkaesque quality. 

2. A judge  who does not exhaust all the possibilities to throw light on the case in hand infringes the principles of a fair trial. Important defence witnesses were either not summoned by the court or not summoned in an effective way. One of these witnesses is the experienced financial controller of Yukos, who lives in Berlin, and could provide the court with detailed information about the internal financial relations of the concern.  

3. The prosecutors are claiming that business dealings between Yukos and its subsidiaries were wholly lacking in transparency. This raises the question as to what financial calculations were used in the first trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, as a basis for claiming that tax due to the state had been evaded. In actual fact, the two charges cannot both be true: either the concern made large profits, and evaded tax on those profits, or the accused stripped the firm of profits through the “theft” of oil of which they are accused.
4. It is high time for the boards of German firms which are doing good business in Russia, such as E.ON, Daimler, Siemens, RWE and Wintershall, to make crystal clear to President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin that they see major obstacles to investing in a country where they cannot rely on legal proceedings being based on the rule of law. This message would undoubtedly be understood in the Kremlin.

My personal observation of the trial, along with analysis provided by human-rights groups and lawyers, supports the conclusion that this is a wholly political trial, intended to eliminate an “oligarch” who has become bothersome, and to share out his wealth amongst the new elite. The second goal at least has already been achieved through the dismantling of Yukos.