MOSCOW, August 8 (RIA Novosti) – Deputies from Russia’s State Duma and senior officials could be questioned by investigators looking into a decade-old case against jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, sparking renewed fears that fresh charges against the once powerful businessman are imminent, Vedomosti newspaper reported Thursday.
Legal experts were first questioned in September last year in connection with the case against Khodorkovsky and his former oil company Yukos, but the net has recently widened, according to Vedomosti. Investigators are now looking at official channels through which experts could have influenced the content of legislation passed during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, the paper said.
Khodorkovsky was found guilty in two separate trials, and has been in prison since 2003. His supporters claim both his convictions were politically motivated, while the Kremlin insists that the legal proceedings were justified.
“Apart from the work carried out by experts into the second case against Yukos and the decision-making mechanism about the humanization [of Russia’s laws], investigators are studying the details of the economic amnesty,” Vedomosti said Thursday, citing up to 15 people who have been questioned.
An economic amnesty, which is expected to free thousands of businessmen convicted of economic crimes, came into effect on July 4, and was publicly supported by President Vladimir Putin.
Other sources quoted by Vedomosti suggested that the Center for Legal and Economic Research, a think tank affiliated to Russia’s Higher School of Economics, was the focal point of investigators’ attention: many of its experts, and administrative staff, have been questioned. The Center closed earlier this year, Vedomosti reported.
The resurrection of the investigation into Khodorkovsky sparked international headlines in June when prominent economist Sergei Guriev fled Russia fearing he could be imprisoned in connection with the case.
Officials from Russia’s Investigative Committee reportedly questioned Guriev over alleged financial donations made by Khodorkovsky to the New Economic School, where he worked as rector, and his contribution to a report, commissioned by the presidential Human Rights Council, that was critical of the second trial against Khodorkovsky in 2010.
Neither the Investigative Committee or the Kremlin press service would comment on the investigation to Vedomosti.
Russia’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to reduce Khodorkovsky’s prison sentence by two months. He is due to be released in August 2014.