Swiss court rejects Russian Yukos requests

The Federal Court in Lausanne has refused to grant judicial assistance to the Russian authorities Keystone

Switzerland's highest court has refused to grant judicial assistance to the Russian authorities in two further legal actions connected to the Yukos affair.

This content was published on February 6, 2006 - 14:07

The Swiss Federal court upheld two complaints from a total of seven companies, stopping the release of bank records ordered by the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

The proceedings relate to funds of $48 million (SFr62 million) frozen in Swiss accounts connected to the Russian oil company.

In three rulings last month, the court partly accepted appeals by a number of companies that were opposed to handing over financial information as part of the investigation into Yukos.

Judges also called on the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office to seek more clarification from the Russian authorities on the case.

At the time, the court rejected the application for legal assistance on the grounds that the documentation did not satisfy the legal requirements.

According to the court, the fact that former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were convicted in Moscow last year made it questionable whether Russia really needed the documents.

Siberian jail

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was convicted of tax evasion and fraud and was sent to a Siberian jail in October 2005 to serve an eight-year jail sentence.

The latest Swiss decision relates to the Yukos holding company Menatep Holding, which is mainly financed by dividends from the oil giant. The seven companies involved in the latest complaints all have ties to Menatep.

Switzerland has been involved in the Yukos probe since March 2004 when it blocked the bank accounts, which Russia suspects hold money from deals involving illegal fertiliser, oil and oil products.

But a few months later the Federal Court ordered the Swiss authorities to free several billion of these assets, following appeals by lawyers representing Khodorkovsky and Menatep.

In July last year the Swiss Federal Court handed over 80 files – of the 1,300 files it has – to the Russians, following a series of requests for legal assistance.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In March 2004, the Swiss authorities blocked SFr6.2 billion ($4.8 billion), said to have been put into Swiss accounts by Yukos management.

In June 2004, a large part of these assets was unfrozen during the course of an investigation into the Yukos affair.

On January 9 2006, and again on Monday, the Swiss Federal Court rejected new requests for judicial assistance by Russia. This concerned the remaining funds still blocked in Swiss accounts.

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