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Khodorkovskii Pleads Not Guilty

15 July 2004 -- Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the founder and main shareholder of the Russian oil company Yukos, pleaded innocent to all charges of fraud and tax evasion against him.

Khodorkovskii's co-defendant, Platon Lebedev, pleaded innocent to the same charges. Both men are charged with seven crimes, including fraud and tax evasion, and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors today read out the indictment, in which they accused Khodorkovskii of leading an "organized criminal group" that sought to acquire shares of major Russian companies through a complex fraud scheme.

Also today, Yukos made its first payment on its $3.4 billion tax debt to the government, in a bid to avoid bankruptcy. Russia's deputy chief bailiff, Andrei Belyakov, did not reveal the amount.