In 1995 and 1996 a handful of oligarchs took control of Yukos, a vast Russian energy company with huge oil and gas reserves. They achieved control by paying $600m to the government officials who were at that point running Yukos and managing the privatisation process, and by rigging the privatisation auctions. The Yukos oligarchs then went on to evade billions (USD) in tax by routing oil production through Russia’s low tax regions, despite having no operations in these places. When presented with a tax demand they rapidly shifted further Yukos cash into tax havens overseas, including by paying an unprecedented $2bn dividend to themselves. Following this Yukos went into liquidation.
The Yukos oligarchs’ notorieties were widely reported in the international press at the time, for example in “The Khodorkovsky Affair”, Wall Street Journal and in “Putin’s Plutocrat Problem”, Foreign Affairs.
In 2005, by way of arbitration proceedings instituted in The Hague, the Yukos oligarchs, acting through three offshore companies controlled by Group Menatep Limited (GML), claimed that Yukos was misappropriated by Russia in a politically motivated move. In 2014 they were awarded an unprecedented $50bn by an arbitral tribunal comprising three arbitrators – an amount equivalent to more than 20% of the Russian government‘s annual spending budget in 2016. These awards were overturned by the Dutch court in 2016.
The Yukos oligarchs still seek to enforce the (overturned) $50bn awards and are appealing the Dutch court decision.
The ICLP is defending these claims with the support of a skilled international legal team.
The Yukos oligarchs’ assets today are held not only in Dutch Stichtings – financial trusts that shield the assets from the oligarchs’ tax liabilities to Russia – but they are also invested in real estate around the world and held in bank accounts in tax havens.