A senior executive at Russia’s now-defunct Yukos oil empire has been sentenced in his absence to life in prison for murder. Leonid Nevzlin was one of Yukos chief Mikhail Khordokovsky’s closest advisers. He fled to Israel in 2003, and has dismissed the case as a ‘show trial’ organised by the Kremlin. Khordokovsky is serving eight years for tax evasion and fraud, and says he, too, is the victim of corruption under former President Vladimir Putin who feared his political ambitions.
Nevzlin’s lawyer said the verdict was written in advance. The Moscow court said Nevzlin and Yukos’s former security chief organised the murder of people hampering the company’s expansion in oil and banking.
From his jail cell, Khordokovsky faces new charges of money laundering and embezzlement. The Nevzlin verdict is the latest chapter in the demise of his Yukos company, which grew rich by buying cheap state assets in the chaos of the 1990s following the fall of the Soviet Union. But Khordokovsky fell foul of the Kremlin in 2003, and then-President Putin repeatedly said he must pay for what he called his “serious crimes.”