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    Two ex-heads of Yukos branches found guilty of embezzling $13 bln

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    MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow court Thursday found two former heads of branches of the bankrupt oil company Yukos guilty of embezzling $13 billion, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

    Vladimir Malakhovsky, ex-managing director of the Ratibor production unit, Vladimir Pereverzin, a one-time deputy head of Yukos's foreign debt department, and Spanish citizen Antonio Valdez-Garcia, former head of Yukos subsidiary Fargoil, are charged with orchestrating a scheme to divert $13 billion worth of crude oil and to launder $8.5 billion of the receipts.

    The prosecution is seeking an 11-year prison term for each of the defendants. All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    But Valdez-Garcia, released on parole while the case is pending, escaped from his Moscow apartment, which was under police guard.

    Neither the Spanish Embassy in Moscow, not Valdez-Garcia's lawyers are aware of his whereabouts.

    The Basmanny District Court said Malakhovsky and Pereverzin purchased oil from Yukos subsidiaries, Yuganskneftegaz, Samarneftegaz and Tomskneft, at artificially reduced prices and resold it at inflated prices.

    The Prosecutor General's Office said in mid-February it had completed its investigation in a new case against Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, both of whom are serving eight-year sentences in Siberia for fraud and tax evasion.

    Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are now accused of stealing $32 billion worth of oil from Samaraneftegaz, Yuganskneftegaz and Tomskneft in 1998-2003, which the two businessmen allegedly documented as "oil-well liquid."

    Prosecutors said Khodorkovsky and Lebedev later resold the oil to end customers for triple the price via bogus firms registered both inside and outside Russia. The scheme helped launder a total of 450 billion rubles ($17 billion) and $7.5 billion.

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