Freed Khodorkovsky Partner Forced to Stay in Russia, Lawyer Says

Platon Lebedev, a former business partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky who was freed in January, has been barred from leaving Russia, one of his lawyers said.

The Russian migration authority has ruled that Lebedev can’t leave Russia until he settles a court-ordered tax debt, Vladimir Krasnov said on the Khodorkovsky defense team’s website. The Federal Migration Service didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia’s highest court on Jan. 23 refused to overturn a 17 billion-ruble ($474 million) tax claim against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, a decision that will keep the former oil tycoon from returning home. Khodorkovsky, who received a one-year residence permit in Switzerland last month after getting a presidential pardon in December, has ruled out a return for fear of not being allowed to leave again because of the tax case.

Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 for tax evasion and fraud and his Yukos Oil Co. was subsequently dismantled and auctioned off to pay for billions of dollars in back taxes. Most of its assets were eventually transferred to state-run OAO Rosneft, which produces about 40 percent of Russian oil.

The Supreme Court freed Lebedev four months early by commuting his sentence to time served.

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