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Yukos manager sent to women's penal colony in Central Russia

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MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - A former Yukos executive convicted on embezzlement and tax evasion charges has been sent to serve her six-and-a-half-year sentence in a women's penal colony in the Central Russian republic of Mordovia, a lawyer for the convicted executive said Wednesday.

On October 2, the Simonovsky Court in Moscow rejected a request from Svetlana Bakhmina's defense lawyers, who asked that the former deputy head of the legal department at the embattled oil company's Yukos Moskva unit be allowed to serve her six-and-a-half-year prison term after her younger child, now aged five, turns 14.

One of Bakhmina's lawyers, Olga Kozyreva, said the decision to send her defendant to the penal colony was illegal, because the court's decision had not yet come into force.

Bakhmina, the mother of two small children, was charged with failing to pay 606,000 rubles ($22,600) in taxes in 2001-2002 and of diverting 8 billion rubles' worth ($298.73 million) of property from Yukos subsidiary Tomskneft in the late 1990s. She has maintained her innocence throughout the litigation process.

"I am innocent, but a question of even greater importance to me is when I will be able to see my children again," Bakhmina said in early October. "I think the time I have spent in detention has already covered what can be qualified as guilt."

Another lawyer for Bakhmina, Alexander Gofshtein, said they appealed the decision of the Simonovsky Court to the Moscow City Court, which scheduled hearings on the request for November 8.

Legal proceedings, launched against Yukos in 2003, are seen by many as having been politically motivated. So far, they have resulted in the conviction of Bakhmina and other executives and shareholders of Russia's once largest oil producer, including its ex-CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year prison term in a Siberian penal colony.

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