GENEVA (Reuters) - Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky arrived in Switzerland on Sunday, having spent two weeks in Germany since his release from a Russian prison, but gave no clue about his future plans.
“He is, as previously stated, delighted that Switzerland is the second country in which he can breathe the air of freedom,” said a statement posted on Khodorkovsky’s website.
“The purpose of his visit is a family matter, as he and his wife are accompanying their two sons back to school in Switzerland,” the statement said, adding that he had not yet made any plans about permanent residency in Switzerland or anywhere else.
Khodorkovsky arrived by train in Basel from Berlin, but a spokesman declined to specify his final destination in Switzerland.
Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed in 2003 for fraud and tax evasion. He was seen by many as a political prisoner, the highest-profile victim of President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to rein in the “oligarchs” who had made fortunes snapping up assets in the chaotic years of Boris Yeltsin’s rule following the collapse of Soviet communism.
After his arrest, tax police filed huge back-tax claims against his oil firm, Yukos, which had a market value of $40 billion at its peak.
The Moscow-based firm, unable to pay, eventually filed for bankruptcy and its production assets, which included some of the best oilfields in Russia, were sold off at state-run auctions.
It is not clear what assets Khodorkovsky still retains, nor if he has any money in Switzerland, which initially cooperated with Russia’s claims against Yukos by searching firms and houses, seizing documents and freezing assets.
But in June 2004 a subsidiary of Khodorkovsky’s holding company Menatep, which had an office in Geneva, won a court appeal to release $1.6 billion of Yukos funds from Swiss bank accounts.
In August 2007, Swiss judicial authorities said they had lifted a freeze on all funds related to the by-then bankrupt Yukos, worth some 200-300 million Swiss francs ($220-330 million).
($1 = 0.9042 Swiss francs)
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Kevin Liffey