The former Yukos chief, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has described the charges he is faced with as absurd and unsubstantiated.
"In particular, I am accused of stealing shares of the Apatit open joint stock company and NIIUIF (the Research Institute of Fertilizers and Insectofungicitis). During the trial, I will prove that this is an awkward attempt to make me responsible for the legislation mistakes during privatization," Mr. Khodorkovsky said at the trial in the Meshchansky Court of Moscow on Friday.
According to the former Yukos chief, the Prosecutor's Office is accusing him of refusal to transfer money from one of his companies to another. "In other words, I'm accused of not putting money from one of my pockets to another. I think it is somewhat illogical," he said.
As for transferring Yukos money to the accounts of Vladimir Gusinsky (out-of-favor oligarch, former head of Media Most, now living abroad), Mr. Khodorkovsky said, "It is ridiculous, to say the least, to accuse me of the fact that Gusinsky took a loan from Yukos on guarantees of Media Most assets, and that these assets somehow disappeared later."
Mikhail Khodorkovsky also said that the Prosecutor's Office accusations of tax evasion had no evidence either. (Yukos is charged back taxes, fees and fines for 2000 and 2001 to the sum of about $200 billion rubles ($1 equals about 29 rubles)). In his words, Yukos regularly paid taxes, legally and in accordance with the legislation of the time.
Mr. Khodorkovsky continued that he did not want "anybody to say that I am trying to hide from criminal charges behind political declarations."
After Mikhail Khodorkovsky's statement, the presiding judge, Irina Kolesnikova, asked the former Yukos CEO when he wanted to testify. Mr. Khodorkovsky replied he would speak at the end, after the evidence of both prosecutors and his defense were studied.
Platon Lebedev, head of the Menatep united financial group, inturn, also believes that his criminal case is falsified.
"The conclusions of the prosecutors on all counts and episodes do not correspond to reality, are not based on the Russian Constitution, laws or the materials of the case,"Mr. Lebedev said in court on Friday.
According to the Menatep chairman, he had carefully studied the prosecutors' materials and found no legal ground in them for launching a criminal case, and no substantial reasons for keeping him [Lebedev] in custody.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is charged with 11 offences under seven articles of the Russian Criminal Code.
In particular, the Prosecutor General's Office is accusing the former Yukos CEO of three offences under the article about fraud, two offences under the article on "refusal to implement the court ruling," two under the article "spending and misappropriation of property," three offences under articles "forged documents," "property damage by cheat," and "individual tax evasion."
According to the Prosecutor General's Office, when chairman of the Menatep board, Mikhail Khodorkovsky together with Menatep President Lebedev and other people organized illegal seizure of 20% of shares in Apatit to the sum of over $283 million.
According to the prosecutors, an organized group led by Mr. Khodorkovsky concentrated money on the accounts of foreign companies in foreign banks and on accounts of Russian companies under their control and their joint stock companies DIB and Menatep-St. Petersburg.
"When leading the organized group, Mr. Khodorkovsky registered movement of the stolen money received from sales of apatite concentrate, oil and oil products, including through tax evasion," says the indictment.
In particular, according to the Prosecutor's Office, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev and other unidentified people organized, under the disguise of bill transaction, the transfer of money from the accounts of his companies, including Yukos, to the accounts of Gusinsky's companies.
According to the indictment, Mr. Khodorkovsky confiscated, illegally and gratuitously, and turned to Gusinsky's advantage over 2.6 billion rubles, to the detriment of the owners of this money.
A RIA Novosti correspondent reports from the court that the court broke for a recess in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev till July 20.
After the accused spoke, the court discussed the routine of studying evidence of the prosecutors and the defence. Prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin suggested that the criminal case be studied first and then the testimony of witnesses and representatives of civil plaintiffs - the Russian tax and dues ministry, and Moscow's tax inspections, be heard. Then, the defense will present its evidence.
Judge Irina Kolesnikova suggested that the sides meet in court during four weekdays and leave the fifth day for lawyers to meet their clients. Following Platon Lebedev's request, Wednesday was made the day off.
Early reports by "PRAVDA.Ru":