Russian prosecutors fail to prove embezzlement: Khodorkovsky

27th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is standing trial on fresh embezzlement charges, said on Wednesday that Russian prosecutors did not manage to prove his guilt, calling the prosecution's performance "muddying the waters."

"I argued in court that all of my actions are lawful, and the prosecution did not prove their unlawfulness," he said in a one-and-a-half-hour speech carried by Russian news agencies as he took the stand in his trial.

"Apparently when prosecutors were ordered to put us in jail they decided they did not want it on their conscience and we're facing such a charge that is impossible to deliver a lawful guilty verdict over it."

Khodorkovsky was jailed along with his business partner Platon Lebedev for eight years in 2005 on fraud and tax evasion charges that his supporters argue were trumped up to punish the tycoon for daring to finance opposition parties.

Before being convicted, the two men spent two years behind bars in pre-trial detention. Last week Russian prosecutors demanded a 14-year sentence for the 47-year-old Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky said the prosecutors had simply "muddied the waters," describing the facts they listed as "entertainment rather than proof."

He said he agreed with the facts brought before the court by the prosecution but argued that they merely represented "regular business activity, which can only be used for indictment on someone's orders."

The prosecution has argued that Khodorkovsky stole over 200 million tons of oil.

At the time of his arrest, Khodorkovsky was seen as a political rival to then-president Vladimir Putin and in November Putin, who is now the country's influential prime minister, compared the tycoon to US fraudster Bernard Maddoff and gangster Al Capone.

His government insists the former oil magnate is guilty of massive financial crimes stemming from the controversial privatisations of the 1990s.

© 2010 AFP

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