This is interesting – three Menatep shareholders have paid Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s $54 million tax debt in full.
"My lawyers have informed me today that my
friends decided to pay the claim laid against me and Platon Lebedev
(head of Menatep), " Khodorkovsky said at trial.
"I would like to stress that the payment does
not mean that I agree with claims tax authorities laid against me,"
Khodorkovsky pointed out.
I wonder whether this actually has any implications for Khodorkovsky’s trial though. (He has been charged with tax fraud and closing arguments are due to begin on Monday). My quick guess is probably not. Whether he stumps up the cash now is pretty much irrelevant to the case. He failed to pay the tax on time, and that is what is actually at issue in the court case. Having said that, though, I’m no expert on Russian tax law, so I’d welcome any input from those with more understanding.
I also wonder why, when he owed what for him is the relatively trivial sum of $54 million, Khodorkovsky is paying up only at this late date. He surely could have found, or his friends could have found, the money earlier had he wanted to. Paying at this late date says to me that he is firmly convinced he is going to lose this court case. The money isn’t aimed at securing his freedom, but at increasing his status as martyr. "Look at me," he can say, "I paid my taxes in full. But Putin jailed me anyway so he could save his own skin."