Skip to comments.Pichugin Faces Life Sentence in Killings(Yukos-Khodorkovsky)
Posted on 08/17/2006 4:25:16 AM PDT by GarySpFc
The Moscow City Court is due to hear the verdict Thursday in the politically charged trial of former Yukos security chief Alexei Pichugin, who stands accused of a series of contract killings, including the 1998 murder of Nefteyugansk mayor Vladimir Petukhov.
The case is a key part of the state's efforts to link former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky's chief lieutenant, Leonid Nevzlin, to the killings.
State prosecutor Kamil Kashayev has asked the court to hand down a life sentence for Pichugin, who is already serving 20 years in jail after being convicted last year of organizing the double murder of Tambov entrepreneur Sergei Gorin and his wife, as well as two assassination attempts.
Pichugin's lead lawyer, Georgy Kaganer, who says his client is a victim of political persecution, said Wednesday that prosecutors could also bring more charges after this trial. "It's possible there could be new charges. There are other cases," Kaganer said.
Pichugin denies involvement in any of the killings.
Pichugin's arrest on June 19, 2003, began the legal onslaught against Khodorkovsky's Group Menatep, through which he controlled a vast business empire, including the country's biggest oil major, Yukos.
Khodorkovsky and one of his closest associates, Platon Lebedev, are serving eight-year sentences in Siberian prison camps on charges of fraud and tax evasion, while Menatep's remaining shareholders have fled Russia with warrants out for their arrest.
Nevzlin, of ordering Pichugin to organize the series of contract killings. Nevzlin, who has lived in exile in Israel since 2003, denies the charges.
On July 27, the day prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Pichugin, the creditors of Yukos voted to liquidate the oil company.
As the Yukos affair has drawn to a close, a rift has emerged among the team of people who worked together for nearly 20 years to build the Menatep business empire.
Amid the onslaught of prosecutions against current and former Yukos executives, accusations have been leveled that Menatep created a vast security "machine" to forcibly settle commercial disputes.
As the verdict in the Pichugin trial neared, one disaffected former Menatep shareholder broke his silence to accuse the Yukos security service under Nevzlin's leadership of organizing an attempt on his wife's life.
In an interview with well-known television commentator Mikhail Leontyev that was given near-blanket coverage recently on state-controlled television channels Channel One and NTV and in Gazprom-owned newspaper Izvestia, the shareholder, Alexei Golubovich, said he suspected the security service of setting off a bomb outside his home as his wife drove past in her car in 2001.
At the time, Golubovich said, he was locked in a commercial dispute with Menatep's other shareholders over his Russky Produkt commercial trading firm.
"No one else apart from Menatep and Yukos came to mind" as being behind the attack, he said in the interview. "It was clear the explosion was meant as a demonstration."
Golubovich also claimed the Yukos security service had tried to poison his wife, Olga Mirimskaya, who heads Russky Produkt, by planting mercury in her car.
He blamed the Yukos security service for being behind the collapse of the company.
"If even one-third of what's been told during the Pichugin trials is true -- and I have no reason to think this has been thought up by someone -- then the role of the security service in the collapse of the company has the place of honor," he said in the interview.
Golubovich, a former physicist and a founding member of Khodorkovsky's Menatep in the late 1980s who later became head of strategic planning at Yukos, said he had been forced out of his stake in Menatep.
Nevzlin's assistant Eric Wolfe declined to comment on the Golubovich interview.
Golubovich is currently under house arrest in northern Italy, in a resort near Pisa. He was detained on an Interpol warrant in May as he attempted to leave the country for London.
Russian prosecutors have a warrant out for his arrest on charges of fraud and embezzlement as part of the 1994 privatization of the Apatit fertilizer plant. An Italian court has yet to hear his extradition case.
Golubovich denies any wrongdoing.
Representatives of the Prosecutor General's Office said the reading of the verdict in the Pichugin trial could stretch over two days.
Pichugin stands accused of organizing the 1998 killings of Petukhov, the mayor of oil town Nefteyugansk, in the heart of Yukos' west Siberian oil fields, and of Valentina Korneyeva, the director of trading firm Feniks.
He also stands accused of two attempts on the life of a former business rival of Menatep, Yevgeny Rybin, who was the head of Vienna-based trading firm East Petroleum Handelsgas, the former main trading partner of Tomskneft. Rybin was squeezed out when Yukos took the firm over in 1998.
Petukhov had accused Yukos of grossly underpaying taxes. In the weeks before he was gunned down on a Nefteyugansk street on his way to work, he had taken his case to President Boris Yeltsin.
Korneyeva had refused to sell her downtown Moscow office to Bank Menatep, prosecutors say.
Pichugin's defense team says the prosecution's case is based on hearsay and has not been proven.
The prosecutors' case rests on the testimony of four men, who admitted in 2005 to carrying out the killings and attacks on Pichugin's orders.
One of them, Yevgeny Reshetnikov, had earlier admitted to carrying out the attack on Rybin in 2000, Pichugin's lawyer Kaganer said. One of the men, Vladimir Shapiro, was arrested in October 2004 and soon afterward Reshetnikov, Mikhail Ovsyannikov and Gennady Tsigelnik were arrested, too.
"It all depends on whether you believe their testimony or not," Kaganer said.
Rybin said Wednesday that a life sentence for Pichugin would be a "just" end to the campaign he had waged against Menatep since he narrowly escaped being shot outside his home in 1998 and a bomb attack in 1999 that killed his driver.
Ping - Yukos and Khodorkovsky
But wait! Isn't Khodorkovsky a "victim" of Putin's regime? (/sarcasm).
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.