Russia appeals order to pay $50 bln to Yukos shareholders in Netherlands

THE HAGUE, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Russia on Tuesday began its appeal in the Netherlands against an international arbitration order that Moscow pay $50 billion in damages to shareholders in the defunct Russian oil giant Yukos.

Most of Yukos’ assets were acquired by Russia’s state-owned oil producer Rosneft after Yukos was declared bankrupt and its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky was imprisoned.

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky was accused of tax evasion and fraud after he fell foul of the Kremlin. He was released suddenly in December 2013.

In July 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued the order for three cases that had sought a total of $114 billion from Russia for expropriating Yukos’ assets.

Russian’s appeal at The Hague District Court seeks to overturn all three decisions and have the damages waived, a court official said.

A ruling in the case in the Netherlands could be issued in six weeks at the soonest, he said.

In December, a French court of appeal turned down Russia’s request to suspend the seizure of Russian assets in France carried out by former Yukos shareholders.

Yukos shareholders began in June 2015 seizing bank accounts and properties in Paris and other parts of France belonging to the Russian Federation. (Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)