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Khodorkovsky says he invested in company and didn't have yachts or diamonds

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Nov. 8, 2011, 12:15 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Interfax-Ukraine
MOSCOW - Former owner of the now defunct Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky said he had never owned luxury yachts, palaces or diamonds. "I put all my capital into production and into projects to develop oil fields and to build and renovate industrial facilities. I personally sponsored educational and charitable projects in this country. The company would have been developing Eastern Siberia and implementing innovative energy projects today. As for yachts, palaces and diamonds, I never had them. Neither I nor my family were interested in that," Khodorkovsky said in answer to letters from Radio Ekho Moskvy listeners.

Khodorkovsky said prison confinement is a test of strength for him. "We all commit sins in our lives. It's better to redeem the sins here. Sins can only be redeemed by hard work. My hard work now is my test of strength. I am strong enough to bear this trial, or else I would have lost myself a long time ago. This is the higher justice," Khodorkovsky said.

Claims that Yukos was bought at an understated price in 1995 are a myth, he said. "The price of shares on the stock exchange in 1995 did not reflect the actual situation. In 1995 Yukos was valued at less than $200 million according to the market price. In actual fact, a price of $350 million for a 70% stake in a holding company that owned 38 subsidiaries and had a debt of $3 billion did not seem too high, especially before the elections with the Communists' likely victory," he said.

In the Yukos times, all major companies worked according to similar schemes, he said. "All major companies used one of the three main schemes: bonuses granted to organizations of disabled citizens; subventions and regional tax concessions - the latter were used by most companies. Our auditors and lawyers and those of other companies considered this scheme legal and the government's lawyers shared this view. Moreover, we would discuss with the Finance Ministry how much should be paid in taxes in each region. This would have an effect on transfer," Khodorkovsky said.

Khodorkovsky said again that he is not guilty and that all the charges brought against him are unfair. "Our tax laws are very ambiguous, so speculation about what is and what is not legal always surrounds companies and must be tackled in arbitration courts. But confessing to a crime you did not commit is a different thing. It would be lying under oath, from which innocent people will suffer. I can't buy freedom through perjury," Khodorkovsky said, commenting on the proposal that he plead guilty and be granted release on parole.

The Basmanny District Court in Moscow arrested Khodorkovsky on Oct. 25, 2003. He has been in custody ever since. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion in May 2005. The Moscow City Court later reduced their sentences to eight years.

News on the second criminal case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev first appeared in 2005 when the first trial was nearing the end.

On Dec. 30, 2010, Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court sentenced Khodorkovsky and Lebedev to 14 years in prison. The Moscow City Court reduced the sentence to 13 years on May 24, 2011. The countdown started from February 2007, but the terms served under the first case will be taken into account, so the final term begins from 2003, the court ruled.
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