Media reports today said prosecutors had brought new charges against the founder of the Yukos oil company and his partner Platon Lebedev for embezzling and laundering as much as $US20 billion ($A26 billion).
Khodorkovsky’s lawyer has reportedly said the new charges could see the former tycoon, who is already serving an eight-year jail sentence for fraud and tax evasion, imprisoned for another 15 years.
The Australian Financial Review today reported that the men’s defence lawyers believe the charges are a way of keeping them in prison beyond Russia’s presidential election in early 2008.
Khodorkovsky angered President Vladimir Putin by funding opposition parties before the country’s 2003 elections. Prior to the new charges, he could have been eligible for parole this year.
Since his arrest, his Yukos oil empire, once the biggest in Russia, has been declared bankrupt. Most of it has been sold off, with its main production arm bought by state-owned Rosneft.