Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is likely to stay in jail until at least 2012, his wife said today, suggesting she expects him to be found guilty of more crimes.
Once Russia's richest man and head of its former biggest oil producer, now defunct Yukos, Khodorkovsky is nearing the end of an eight-year sentence imposed in a fraud and tax evasion trial that shaped Vladimir Putin's 2000-2008 presidency.
According to the current sentence, he would be due to leave prison in 2011, but Russian authorities launched a fresh case against him and, on December 27, a judge in Moscow will start reading a new verdict.
Prosecutors say he stole $27 billion in oil from Yukos subsidiaries through pricing schemes and want him sentenced to six more years in prison. His lawyers dismiss the charges as an absurd, politically motivated pretext to keep him behind bars.
The verdict and the sentence, which many suspect will be decided in the Kremlin, will be widely seen as a sign of whether President Dmitry Medvedev has the will -- and the clout -- to free a man whose imprisonment is a symbol of Putin's rule.
Khodorkovsky's wife, Inna, told Russia's "Snob" magazine, owned by Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, that she was sure her husband will remain in prison until at least 2012.
"My husband will stay in prison till 2012, that's for sure. And who knows what will happen after that? No one," Inna Khodorkovsky said in the Internet version of the edition, which appeared online today.