Shareholders of the now-defunct Yukos oil company were awarded $50 billion today, after international court ruled energy giant was illegally seized from billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky by the Russian government.
In 2003, Russian officials arrested Khodorkovsky and began selling off his assets, including Yukos Oil. Ever since then, shareholders of Yukos have been seeking compensation from the Kremlin. Khodorkovsky was originally arrested for embezzlement and tax fraud. However, he claimed these charges were fueled by political disagreements, rather than facts. Khodorkovsky spent ten years in prison before Putin pardoned him last year.
The ruling, from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, reads, "Yukos was the object of a series of politically motivated attacks by the Russian authorities that eventually led to its destruction," in line with claims Khodorkovsky has been making all along.
“We are thrilled with this decision, although we know it is not the end of the road,” said Tim Osborne, director of GML, the holding company founded by Khodorkovsky.
This $50 billion payout puts pressure on Russia's state controlled oil company, Rosneft, which took over many of Yukos's assets. BP may also become involved, as they own 20 percent of Rosneft.
This already ten-year-old saga may not be over, as Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told Reuters that the government would consider an appeal. There is also the process of actually receiving the funds. Osborne told The New York Times he hopes the Russian government "would abide by this decision" and if they do not, the shareholders of Yukos will seize "Russian assets outside of Russia." The Russian government has 180 days to start payment, after which interest begins accruing.
Khodorkovsky, once the wealthiest man in Russia, will likely not receive a payout, as he signed his stake in Yukos over to a partner in 2005.