WASHINGTON - The White House said Monday that it was "deeply concerned" over a Russian court's conviction of two former Russian business tycoons-Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
Jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev (R) stand in the defendants' cage before the start of a court session in Moscow December 27, 2010. [Photo/Agencies]
"We are troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends," the White House said in a statement." The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia's reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law."
Former Yukos tycoon Khodorkovsky was found guilty on Monday by a Moscow court on charges of embezzlement, while Lebedev, former CEO of Menatep Group, was also found guilty by the Moscow Khamovnichesky court in a second criminal case against the two former oil tycoons, on charges of large-scale theft by an organized group and attempts to legalize stolen property.
The two business partners were accused of embezzling 218 tons of oil from Yukos and laundering the company's revenues of some $97. 5 million.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to nine years of imprisonment in 2005 for tax evasion and fraud. Their sentences were later reduced to eight years.
In 2009 when their first trial had nearly drawn to an end, the two men were returned from the Siberian Chita region to Moscow to face a second trial. They now could face up to 14 years in jail, but the sentence has not yet been handed down. They both claimed innocence.
The statement said Obama has spoken frequently with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about this case, and will continue to monitor closely the next stages in the case, including the fairness of the sentences and the review by higher courts during the appeals process.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her concern earlier Monday.