Medvedev aide backs Khodorkovsky's defence
A top economic adviser to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday that while serving in government he never suspected jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky of stealing oil.
Kremlin aide Arkady Dvorkovich added that he felt the former Yukos oil company chief has been given a fair trial and that the verdict, whose reading begins Wednesday, will reflect that.
In jail since 2003 for fraud and tax evasion, Khodorkovsky is facing new money laundering and embezzlement charges that could keep him behind bars for another six years in a case his supporters say is politically motivated.
Dvorkovich told the BBC that he agreed with the testimony of former economy minister German Gref, who told the court this summer that he would have been aware if someone had stolen so much oil in a complicated tax evasion scheme.
"I worked (as) a deputy minister of economy when Gref was a minister of economy and we had a normal discussion process with all oil companies including Yukos about taxation, about the oil sector, development strategy, certainly I didn't have any information on ... oil being stolen by (the) company from anyone or by specific people from the company," Dvorkovich said.
"I hope a fair decision will be taken based on all available information to the court and given what I saw in similar cases across Russia, I believe that a fair decision will be taken," he added according to a transcript of the interview.
Prosecutors have asked for a new 14-year sentence to run simultaneously with the current eight-year jail term so that Khodorkovsky and his co-accused Platon Lebedev, if convicted, would remain behind bars until 2017.
Accusations that his jailing was a political stitch-up masterminded by Vladimir Putin have led Western capitals to view the new trial as a test for Russia's commitment to democracy under new President Dmitry Medvedev.
© 2010 AFP