Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Borisovich

Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Borisovich mēkhəyēlˈ bərēˈsəvĭch kōdôrkôfˈskē [key], 1963–, Russian business executive. In the waning years of the Soviet Union, he ran a computer import business and soon made a fortune by buying inexpensive state assets and trading commodities. An important early step in the building of his business empire was the founding (1989) of the private bank MENATEP, which gained control of the oil giant Yukos in the mid-1990s when business regulation was lax and the central government weak. By the beginning of the 21st cent. Khodorkovsky was a multibillionaire and the richest man in Russia. In the early years, he was aligned with the Russian government and served (1993) as Yeltsin's deputy fuel and oil minister, but during Putin's presidency he supported economic reforms and human-rights groups and began (2003) to fund Russian political parties.

In Oct., 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested and charged with fraud and tax evasion, and after an 11-month trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to eight years. The government also moved against Yukos, which was forced into bankruptcy and had its assets sold mainly to state-owned companies. Khodorkovsky accused Putin of attempting to silence a potential rival, a charge that won some support from human-rights campaigners. A number of national and international courts have since rendered judgments against the Russian government and in favor of Yukos shareholders in the case and levied sometimes sizable monetary damages.

In 2010 Khodorkovsky was convicted of embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced to six more years (reduced to five years in 2011); two court officials at the second trial charged in 2011 that the verdict had been dictated from somewhere above in the judicial system. In 2012 his sentence was reduced by two years. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2011 that although he had not proved his prosecution was politically motivated Russia had committed violations of his rights during his arrest and detention.

Khodorkovsky was pardoned in 2013, and went into exile. In 2014 he reestablished Open Russia, a foundation he had created (2001) to build and strengthen Russian civil society; it had closed down in 2006 when the Russian government froze its bank accounts, and was banned by Russia in 2017. Russian prosecutors charged him in absentia in 2015 with masterminding contract killings in 1998–99.

See studies by R. Sakwa (2009) and M. Sixsmith (2010).

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