My views on Khodorkovsky – and by extension his being found guilty of $25bn embezzlement – aren’t exactly a secret (1, 2, 3) so I’ll keep this brief.
1. As usual, the only people who care about this are Western politicians eager to score cheap shots against Russia’s “assault” on transparency and rule of law (note that the same people have no problem with repressing Wikileaks and killing Assange – everyone should be subject to equal scrutiny, but some more equally than others!); MBK’s lawyers and PR-men whose job this is; and the legions of naifs, fools and ideologues manipulated by them. BTW, my favorite photo is above, showing elderly ladies parading with that chic glossy poster of their hero, with Medvedev and Putin darkly conspiring behind his back. I’m sure they funded it all out of their pensions.
2. The standard argument of MBK’s PR-men goes something like this: how could Khodorkovsky be guilty of embezzling $25bn, from his own company? And especially considering that he’s already been found guilty of tax evasion? But that’s just begging the question; insinuations, not facts. While MBK *might* not be directly guilty of this, I’m sure the prosecutors have found some legal loophole or another sufficient to convict him. I can imagine a scenario where the proceeds from the tax evasion he was originally convicted for – if retained by MBK’s various LLC’s and holding companies, which they presumably were – could also legally constitute embezzlement.
The issue then becomes a question of whether Russia’s laws against double jeopardy apply to this case; it’s theoretically possible to both evade taxes, and consequently to deprive your shareholders of dividends, i.e. embezzlement. I don’t know the legalistic details but neither do more than 99% of the pundits; what I do want to stress is that even from the legalistic viewpoint, stressed by MBK’s defenders, things are far from a straightforward case of “Putin’s vendetta” against the “independent businessman”.
3. I’m not going to reiterate the other arguments as to why Medvedev should pardon MBK (e.g. that in itself it a subversion of the legal process; that the US imprisons people without trial at Guantanamo doesn’t give me free reign to abduct passersby into my basement Juggler-style; that he never cared about rule of law until it boomeranged back against him). The bottom line is he failed at his power grab. Too bad for him, he should have used his ill-gotten gains on buying foreign football clubs and luxury yachts with AA systems. Smallest violin in the world playing for his lost opportunities!
4. The liberal intelligentsia and libertarian oligarch-apologists love yapping on about how Khodorkovsky’s political “persecution” will lead to investors withdrawing their money from that non-BRICworthy economic hellhole, that is Russia. I checked specifically for this and observed absolutely zero discernible effect on the RTS stockmarket around when MBK was found guilty on December 27th. (Of course, pardoning criminals just to appease the hurt feelings of international capital is perhaps the most reprehensible pro-MBK argument of them all).