Swiss court refuses Russian bid for Yukos assets

The lawyers for beleaguered Russian oil company Yukos were given a boon yesterday by Switzerland’s highest court, which denied a request by the Russian Federation to access key bank documents.

In a press conference today, Yukos’ litigator Bob Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff claimed the decision by the federal court was one that considered “the violation of human rights and the rule of law” within Russia.

No appeal is possible by Russia, which is yet to formally react to the Swiss court’s decision. The pronouncement brings to an end a four-year attempt by Russia to gain access to documents of key Yukos assets that were held in Switzerland.

The court said that it could not assist Russia because “infringement of human rights and the right to defence” had “apparently been committed throughout the procedure”.

In 2004, Switzerland blocked SF6bn (£2.5bn) of Yukos assets related to the case. These were then unfrozen in 2004. In 2006, the Swiss courts denied new requests by Russia concerning the rest of Yukos’ assets held in Swiss banks.

It is understood that this is the first time in Swiss legal history where mutual assistance in a foreign criminal case has been denied.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former chief executive of Yukos now imprisoned in Siberia on charges of embezzlement of $33m (£16.6m), was one of the six applicants who lobbied the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office from handing over documents to the Russian authorities.

The applicants were advised by Amsterdam and Philippe Neyroud, senior partner at Poncet Turrettini Amaudruz Neyroud & Associes.

The Russian Federation was represented by the Moscow prosecutor’s office and Zurich litigator Dieter Jan.

The next step for Khodorkovsky is unclear. Amsterdam said only that his defense is ongoing.