With Khodorkovsky out, Yukos investors fight on
By Megan Davies and Douglas Busvine
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Freed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has ruled out trying to recover the fortune that made him Russia's richest man, but two multi-billion-dollar law suits involving his defunct oil giant Yukos could be decided this year.
Pardoned by President Vladimir Putin in December after 10 years in jail for fraud and tax evasion, Khodorkovsky, 50, has bowed out of the ring, but the ex-managers and shareholders of Yukos fight on for compensation from the Russian Federation.
A business once worth $40 billion that pumped two percent of the world's oil, Yukos was broken up and nationalized after Khodorkovsky's arrest in 2003. Most of its assets are now owned by Russian state oil major Rosneft (ROSN.MM: Quote).
The two main lawsuits, one brought by former Yukos managers at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and one by shareholders at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, could be decided this year, according to those involved.
After the sudden release of Khodorkovsky, plaintiffs in the cases made clear they wanted to push forward with their cases.
Allies say Khodorkovky's imprisonment and the subsequent dismantling of his business empire were caused by his funding of Putin opponents and his public accusations about state corruption, which the Kremlin denies.
"When I went to Russia it was to be a part of what I saw as a country going in the right direction," said Ohio-born Bruce Misamore, the ex-finance chief of Yukos who is still seeking compensation nine years after fleeing Russia for America.
"We were doing everything right. Then Mr. Putin turned into a despot and stole the company back. Things haven't been the same in Russia since," Misamore said in an interview. Continued...