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Russian Ex-Oil Tycoon Khodorkovsky Visits Israel After Release

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Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man before he was jailed in 2003, is visiting Israel after being freed by President Vladimir Putin last month.

“It’s not a working or business trip; it’s a private visit,” Olga Pispanen, a spokeswoman for Khodorkovsky, said by telephone today, declining to comment on any meetings. His former business partners including Leonid Nevzlin live there.

Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in jail on tax evasion and fraud charges, was unexpectedly released Dec. 20 after Putin granted him a pardon. Khodorkovsky’s Yukos Oil Co., once Russian biggest oil producer, was bankrupted and sold off in pieces, mostly to state-controlled OAO Rosneft.

The businessman already met with Nevzlin, Israeli newspaper Calcalist said on its website today. Irina Dolgina, a spokeswoman for Nevzlin, didn’t answer her phone.

In 2004, Khodorkovsky transferred his stake of more than 60 percent in Group Menatep Ltd. to Nevzlin. Menatep owned about 40 percent of Yukos. Nevzlin, who is wanted in Russia on charges including murder that he says were politically motivated, and at least two other former Menatep owners, Vladimir Dubov and Mikhail Brudno, live in Israel.

Khodorkovsky said in an interview with Bloomberg last month that he wasn’t immediately planning to ask Nevzlin to return his Menatep stake. The two may discuss allegations Nevzlin made in a 2005 interview to Russian newspaper Vedomosti that billionaire Roman Abramovich helped mastermind the destruction of Yukos, Khodorkovsky said.

John Mann, a spokesman for Abramovich, called the accusation “fantasy” last month.

Khodorkovsky, who first flew to Germany after his release, was granted a Swiss visa and had been visiting there, according to a statement on his website. He hasn’t decided on a permanent residence.

To contact the reporter on this story: Olga Tanas in Moscow at otanas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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