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Khodorkovsky moved to Moscow jail

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in prison in an undated photo released in 2005
Khodorkovsky went from Russia's richest man to being a lowly convict

Jailed former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been transferred to Moscow from his Siberian prison to face trial on new charges, officials say.

His former business partner, Platon Lebedev, was also moved from the prison in the Chita region to the capital.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed for nine years in 2005 for tax evasion and other offences.

The former head of Russia's disbanded oil firm, Yukos, faces trial on theft and embezzlement charges next month.

Khodorkovsky's supporters say the authorities apparently want to keep him behind bars well beyond the end of his first sentence.

They say the original charges were politically motivated because Khodorkovsky had funded Russian opposition groups.

'Ridiculous allegations'

Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said on Tuesday that both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev had arrived in Moscow to face trial on new charges misappropriation of property, embezzlement and illegal financial operations.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled to begin on 3 March at the city's Khamovnichesky District court.

MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY
1963 - Born in Moscow, son of chemical engineers
1980s - Sets up computer and software business with fellow students
1987 - Founds Menatep bank
1994 - Buys fertiliser company Apatit at auction
1995 - Buys oil company Yukos for $300m, with Menatep assuming $2bn in debt
2003 - Arrested for embezzlement, tax evasion and fraud
2004 - Court case begins
2005 - Found guilty on six of seven charges and sentenced to nine years
2009 - Faces new charges of misappropriation of property, embezzlement and illegal financial operations

Russian news agencies have reported that the two former business partners are accused of misappropriating nearly 1 trillion roubles ($27.7bn) and laundering almost 450bn roubles ($12.5bn).

Khodorkovsky had been serving his prison sentence in Krasnokamensk, in the eastern Siberian region of Chita, close to the Chinese border, about 4,700km (3,000 miles) east of Moscow.

He remains a strong critic of the Kremlin, last year accusing Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of having used the law while president to target political enemies, especially businessmen like himself.

Responding last week to the announcement of a new trial, his lawyers said: "The bureaucrats of the security forces have wasted many years, huge sums of state money and their own reputation by fabricating these ridiculous allegations."

Lebedev was also convicted of tax evasion at the same trial in 2005 and jailed for nine years.

Yukos, once Russia's biggest oil company, was declared bankrupt in 2006 and ceased to exist as a legal entity in November 2007.

The company had been steadily dismantled after being accused of massive fraud and tax evasion by the Russian authorities.

Yukos maintained it was the victim of a concerted political campaign by a government which wanted to discredit its executives and gain control of vital energy assets. Russian officials deny the allegation.

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SEE ALSO
Profile: Khodorkovsky's prison
20 Oct 05 |  Europe
Yukos ex-chief jailed for 9 years
31 May 05 |  Business


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