For those who witnessed the dismantling of the Russian oil company Yukos in its home country, Monday was “the great day for justice.”
Those were the words of the lawyer representing financial holding company GML, the former major shareholders of Yukos, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered Moscow to pay €38.45 billion ($51.57 billion) in damages to shareholders of the defunct oil giant. The court found that Russian officials under President Vladimir Putin manipulated the legal system to force Yukos into bankruptcy, took over its assets and transferred them to a state-controlled company, and jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at the time was the richest man in Russia and a political rival to Mr. Putin.
The 2003 criminal proceedings against Mr. Khodorkovsky – who was brought into a Moscow courtroom like a caged beast – had nothing to do with the rule of law. In a rigged compulsory auction in December 2004, the core of his company was transferred to the completely unknown Baikalfinansgrup, which somehow secured a credit line of €1.26 billion from the state-owned Sberbank. From there the majority of Yukos was passed on to the state-owned oil company Rosneft. Consequently, Rosneft is now the world’s largest publicly traded oil company and includes British Petroleum as one of its major shareholders along with several Rosneft executives.