Sergei Guriev, an adviser to the Russian government, said he fled the country to avoid imprisonment after he became a witness in a case involving OAO Yukos, the oil company of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Guriev, 41, left Moscow April 30 on a one-way flight to Paris, where his family lives, after more than two months of interrogation, he said in a telephone interview today.
“My family considers it its right to see me near them and not in Krasnokamensk,” Guriev said, referring to the town in Siberia, where Khodorkovsky was held in a penal colony. “I must have freedom of speech and not be afraid of being imprisoned for it.” He declined to comment on when he may return to Russia.
Guriev, the rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, contributed to a report commissioned by then-president Dmitry Medvedev in 2011 that criticized the verdict in a second case on Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man.
Khodorkovsky, 49, is serving 13 years in prison under two separate convictions for fraud, tax evasion and oil embezzlement. Yukos was sold in pieces, mostly to state-run OAO Rosneft, to cover tens of billions of dollars in back taxes.
“If what we are seeing is a liberal economist representing one political faction being hounded out of the country by people presumably working for the more conservative faction, then there is reason to be deeply concerned about free discourse and government policy making,” Eric Kraus, a fund manager at Nikitsky Capital, which oversees about $215 million, said in an e-mail.
Guriev was first summoned for questioning by the Investigative Committee on Feb. 12. Investigators, who scheduled another interrogation for April 25, confiscated all of Guriev’s e-mails for the last five years, he said.
Guriev sought this week to withdraw his nomination to the supervisory board of state-run lender OAO Sberbank and to leave his post as a rector of the New Economic School. The institution’s board yesterday approved his resignation. He was re-elected to Sberbank’s board, Sberbank Chairman Herman Gref said at the lender’s annual shareholders meeting.
“Of course, it’s a pity,” Gref told reporters after meeting. “He is a very effective person, very professional, very tough, always uncompromising. I hope he will work here in the future at supervisory council.”