RUSSIA MUST COMPENSATE
Russia has to pay the former owners of now defunct Russian oil company Yukos €1.87 billion ($2.51 billion) in compensation for unfair tax proceedings, the European Court of Human Rights said Thursday.
The ruling on compensation is the ECHR's biggest award to date and comes three years after the Strasbourg-based court first found that Moscow had violated Yukos's rights to a fair trial and protection of property.
Russia has to pay €1.87 billion in compensation for the direct financial damage that Yukos's owners suffered from the unlawful proceeding, which the court said should go to Yukos's former shareholders and their heirs.
In a blow to Yukos's former owners, however, the court rejected its claim that the unfair tax proceedings led to its liquidation in 2007. "There was insufficient proof of a causal link between the violation found and the pecuniary damage allegedly sustained by Yukos," the court said.
It is because of this assessment that the €1.87 billion award falls well short of the €37.98 billion in damages Yukos had asked for. It is also significantly less than the $50 billion in damages that its former owners were awarded by a Netherlands-based tribunal this week.
The court said Russia must draw up a plan within six months for how it will pay the damages and costs.
In a statement, Russia's justice ministry noted that the court had already cut the damages requested from €100 billion to €37.98 billion and awarded only €1.86 billion. Even so, the ministry complained that it "does not view this ruling as an example of a fair and unbiased approach to the legal and factual circumstances of the case."
Criticizing elements of the decision as "inexplicable from a legal point of view," the ministry said the decision ordered compensation for Yukos's former controlling shareholders, even though they were found to have used "illegal tax schemes." The ministry noted that the decision can be appealed, though it didn't specify whether or not it will do so.
Yukos's former chief financial officer Bruce Misamore said the company's former management, which brought the suit, was pleased with the decision, but lamented that the court didn't award damages for the destruction of Yukos. "Over 55,000 Yukos shareholders now stand to receive some compensation directly from the Russian Federation under this judgment," he said. "This is a real step forward but in no way reflects the true damages suffered by the victims of the destruction of Yukos by the Russian Federation."
The ECHR was created in 1953 by the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization that counts Russia among its 47 member states. It is one of the world's most respected courts.
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