LEONID NEVZLIN

57 years old | Embezzlement and abuse of power

Born in 1959 in Moscow, Leonid Nevzlin is a former shareholder of the oil group Yukos. He was one of the most notorious oligarchs of President Yeltsin's Russia. In 2003, while some of his associates were facing charges of corruption, he fled the country to Israel, where he obtained citizenship. Since then, he has been charged by the Russian authorities but refuses to come back to Russia to appaear before the courts of his country.

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The rise to the top of the social ladder

 

Born in 1959, from a modest background, Leonid Nevzlin graduated from the Moscow Institute for Oil and Gas Industry. He then started working as a software engineer at Zarubezhgeologia, an external trade organization of the Soviet Ministry of Geology. The year 1987 marked a turning point in his life: he met Mikhail Khodorkovski, founder of the Center for Scientific and Technical Creativity. Khodorkovski and Nevzlin became close partners and later turned the Center into one of the biggest banks in post-Soviet Russia (MENATEP). In 1995, the bank took over Yukos oil group for $350 million under the "loans for shares" program. In the years that followed, Yukos' quick development made Nevzlin one of Russia's richest men. A rather rapid enrichment, which enabled him to start a political career: in 2001, he was elected Senator of the Russian Federation.

 

The Yukos scandal, escape and trials

 

In 2003, a scandal of fraud and tax evasion involving some of Yukos' top executives broke out, leading to the oil group’s nationalization. In October, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in connection with the investigation and Leonid Nevzlin fled Russia for Israel. In January 2004, a Russian court ordered the extradition of Nevzlin, now an Israeli citizen, so that he could be tried for tax evasion[1], but the extradition request was rejected by Israel for "lack of evidence". In July, the case took a rather macabre turn, with Russian investigators now suspecting Nevzlin of being involved in the murder of several business competitors[2]. In December 2006, he was prosecuted for organizing the poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who had met him a few weeks before he died[3]. In 2008, the oligarch was finally sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for murder[4].

 

Legal disputes

 

Since 2005, Leonid Nevzlin has been carrying out an international judicial fight against Russia in The Hague, in order to obtain compensation for what he calls "expropriation" of the Yukos shareholders by the Russian government. The court first ruled in his favour in 2014, by sentencing the Russian government to pay $50 billion to the shareholders of Yukos[5], before overturning its ruling on appeal in April 2016. Nevzlin and other former shareholders still hope to have the Russian government sentenced in this dispute[6], but no definitive convictions have been pronounced against Russia to this day, whether in France, in the United Kingdom or Germany, where cases were initiated by Nevzlin and his associates.

 

The Russian government continues to ask for the extradition of Nevzlin, who lives peacefully in Israel despite the many sentences that have been pronounced against him.

 

 

 

 

TIMELINE OF THE NEVZLIN CASE

 

2003

·         October: Khodorkovski is arrested, Nevzlin escapes to Israel

·         Granted Israeli citizenship

2004

·         January: a request to the Israeli government to extradite Nevzlin

·         July: The Russian justice suspects Nevzlin of complicity in several cases of murder

2005

·         Nevzlin and some of his associates start an international legal dispute against the Russian government

2006

·         December: He is suspected of being involved in the killing by poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko

2008

·         August: Sentenced to life imprisonment in abstentia for complicity in murder.

2014

·         July: An international panel of judges in The Hague sentences Moscow to give a compensation of $50 billion to the shareholders of Yukos

2016

·         April: The court overturns the previous ruling

 

[1] « Russia seeks extradition of oil tycoons Nevzlin, Dubov from Israel », Globes, 25 janvier 2004

[2] « Yukos fugitive faces murder pact charges », Julius Strauss, The Telegraph, 27 juillet 2004

[3] « Oil billionaire named in Litvinenko inquiry », Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph, 28 décembre 2006

[4] “Russian Court Finds Yukos Boss Guilty of Murders”, RFE/RL, 1er août 2008

[5] « Court orders Russia to pay $50 billion for seizing Yukos assets », Reuters, 28 juillet 2014

[6] « Dutch Court Overtuns $50 Billion Ruling Against Russia in Yukos Case », The New York Times, 20 avril, 2016