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Swiss court orders restriction of Yukos-related legal aid to Russia

17:22 09/01/2006

GENEVA, January 9 (RIA Novosti, Yekaterina Andrianova) - The Swiss Federal Court, the country's highest court instance, has honored in part Swiss companies' demand to end legal aid to Russia in connection with the Yukos affair.

The complaint was filed by companies whose bank accounts had been frozen by the Federal Office of Justice that was providing Russia assistance in investigation against the Yukos oil major, the case seen in the West as largely politically motivated.

The court issued three decisions Monday, obliging the Federal Office of Justice to consider "critically" providing further assistance to Russian prosecutors.

The court instructed the Federal Office of Justice to translate and take a thorough study of all the rulings the Russian court had issued with respect to the embattled oil company.

However, the court said the arrest would not be lifted from a total of $48 million in Swiss banks until a final decision was made on the matter.

The Swiss judges said the case was uncommon and extremely complicated and complained the documents provided by the Russian side were often a mess.

Switzerland was confronted with the Yukos case in March 2004 when local prosecutors, acting on Russia's request, raided companies affiliated with or linked to the Russian oil major in Switzerland. Bank accounts of some of Yukos shareholders, including Group Menatep, once its main shareholder, and of some of its affiliates totaling over $4 billion were frozen.

In June 2004, the Swiss Federal Court honored several complaints filed by Yukos lawyers and lifted the arrest from some of the accounts.

Group Menatep Limited (GML), a Yukos shareholder, says about $125 million remain frozen in Swiss banks.

In July 2005, Swiss prosecutors handed over about 90 documents to Russia of at least 1,300 they had confiscated during the searches.

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