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Jailed Russian tycoon ‘may face third trial’

Jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly Russia’s richest man, could face a third trial over his activities as head of the Yukos oil giant, prosecutors said in an interview on Monday.

Khodorkovsky only last month was found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering in his second trial and ordered to remain in prison until 2017, following his first conviction for fraud and tax evasion in 2005.

The comments by the two lead prosecutors in the second case came ahead of an appearance by President Dmitry Medvedev at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week where he is expected to be pressed on the issue.

“There are 18 accomplices of Khodorkovsky and his (co-accused Platon) Lebedev who are still wanted,” prosecutors Valery Lakhtin and Gulchekhra Ibragimova told the mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

“If in the course of the search, new facts of crimes are uncovered, then the investigative organs will be obliged to present new charges and the case to a court,” they said.

“This is our obligation,” they added in the interview, printed in a question-and-answer format, with quotes attributed jointly to both the prosecutors.

The new sentence handed to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev on the penultimate day of 2010 provoked an international outcry, with Western powers accusing Russia of selectively prosecuting the fallen tycoon.

Khodorkovsky’s supporters have long contended he is being persecuted by the state for daring to finance the opposition to his nemesis, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

However the prosecutors said such accusations were a “PR tactic to divert attention from the case.”

“These were thieves who robbed the state and simple shareholders of billions of dollars. They must and will be in jail,” Lakhtin and Ibragimova added.

Khordorkovsky’s lawyers contended that the charges in the second trial were absurd as the defendants stood accused of embezzling the equivalent of the entire production of Yukos from 1998 and 2003.