MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow City Court slashed on Thursday prison sentences for former Yukos bosses Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, who are now set to walk out in 2014, not 2016.
The judge upheld the guilty verdict, but cited a recent liberalization of legislation on economic crimes for which the two businessmen were jailed, a court spokeswoman said.
The judge also dropped the charge of laundering 2.5 billion rubles ($81 million) that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were accused of embezzling.
The businessmen were convicted by a district court in Moscow in 2010 of embezzling 200 million tons of oil and laundering the profits. They appealed the verdict, asking to be cleared of all charges.
Lebedev is now expected to walk out on July 2, 2014, and Khodorkovsky on October 25, 2014.
Lebedev earlier appealed the verdict in a court in Arkhangelsk Region, where he is serving his prison term. A district court slashed his prison term in two subsequent trials, but a higher court ordered retrials each time, the second still pending a hearing date.
Supporters of the jailed businessmen claimed their case is retribution from President Vladimir Putin for Khodorkovsky’s support of political opposition. Putin reiterated his dismissal of the allegations on Thursday.
“There is no personal persecution here. Nothing that some try to present as a political case. Did he try to go into politics? Was he a lawmaker, did he create a party? The case is entirely economic,” Putin said about Khodorkovsky at a press conference in Moscow.
Khodorkovsky said six months before his arrest in 2003 that he would use his fortune, estimated by Forbes magazine at $8 billion at the time, to support liberal oppositional parties Yabloko and Union of Right Forces.