YUKOS VS RUSSIA: $100 BLN CLAIM
The ruling in a $100bn damages claim against Russia by shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company will be revealed on Monday in a step that could provoke new recriminations between Moscow and the west.
The claim, which lawyers say is the largest investment arbitration case ever brought, was launched in 2005 by several leading shareholders of the company once controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oligarch freed from jail last winter.
They accused Russia of destroying Yukos through crippling, artificially inflated tax demands after Mr Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 on fraud and tax evasion charges. Russia has insisted it was acting legally in a legitimate tax case, and has participated fully in the arbitration.
But the ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague will now be released into the highly combustible atmosphere between Russia and the west created by the crisis in Ukraine and downing of Malaysian flight MH17 last week.
If Russia loses, it could be forced either to pay out billions of dollars in compensation to a handful of exiled oligarch shareholders, or instead face action by them to confiscate state-held property outside Russia to pay off the claim.
Such a ruling could also set a precedent strengthening the hand of thousands of former minority shareholders of Yukos if they decided to pursue litigation.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is also expected to rule soon on damages in a separate 2004 case brought by Yukos's then management on behalf of all shareholders.
The arbitration case was brought by shareholder subsidiaries of GML, the former Yukos holding company, including a corporate pension fund covering 30,000 ex-Yukos employees.
GML's biggest shareholder is Leonid Nevzlin, now resident in Israel, with 70 per cent. The remainder is held equally between Platon Lebedev, Mikhail Brudno, Vladimir Dubov and Vasily Shakhnovsky.
Mr Khodorkovsky, released after a surprise pardon by Mr Putin last December, signed over his Yukos stake to Mr Nevzlin during his trial in 2005, and says he has no further claim over it.
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