MOSCOW, January 10 (RIA Novosti) – Former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has visited Israel where several of his business associates from dismantled oil giant Yukos are living, according to media reports Friday.
The trip to Israel, the third country Khodorkovsky is known to have visited since he was freed from prison in Russia late last month, was confirmed by his spokeswoman Olga Pispanen, Russian media said.
Khodorkovsky has already met with Leonid Nevzlin, a former Yukos shareholder living in Israel, according to a report in Israeli newspaper the Calcalist on Friday.
Sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a Russian court in 2008, Nevzlin fled to Israel shortly after Khodorkovsky, then the chief executive of Yukos, was arrested on a Siberian runway in 2003.
Khodorkovsky said in a December 24 interview with Bloomberg news agency that he wanted to discuss allegations made by Nezvlin that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich helped to mastermind the destruction of Yukos.
Abramovich, whose spokesman Bloomberg cited as denying the allegations, was the owner of oil major Sibneft in 2003 when he aborted its merger with Yukos shortly after Khodorkovsky’s detention.
Other meetings between Khodorkovsky and former Yukos shareholders Vladimir Dubov and Mikhail Brudno could also take place in Israel, according to the Calcalist.
Freed from prison on December 20, Khodorkovsky flew straight to Germany, where he met with his family. His spokesman said Sunday that the former tycoon had also visited Switzerland since his release.
Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky served more than a decade in prison following his arrest and two subsequent convictions for fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement.
Dozens of other senior Yukos managers were imprisoned or fled Russia as the company, once Russia’s biggest, was broken up in a campaign allegedly stage-managed by the Kremlin.
Khodorkovsky has always denied the charges against him, maintaining that they were brought against him in revenge for Yukos' financial support of opposition parties.
Shortly after his release, the former oligarch told reporters that he has no plans to get involved in Russian politics, or to bankroll the political opposition to President Vladimir Putin.