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#4 - JRL 7256
July 18, 2003
Court says no violations during YUKOS employee's arrest
By Irina Petrakova

The Basmannyi court of Moscow has ruled that the searches conducted in the house and the office of the head of the YUKOS security department Alexei Pichugin, arrested at the end of June on charges of double murder, were lawful. Pichugin's defence lawyers insist that the searches were carried out with violations and plan to contest Friday's ruling in a higher court.

The Basmannyi court of Moscow has said that the searches in the YUKOS employee's house and office were lawful. Alexei Pichugin, the head of the 4th internal and economic security department of the oil giant YUKOS, was arrested at the end of June and charged with planning a double murder and a murder attempt.

The court was to examine the complaint filed by Pichugin's defence against the Prosecutor General's Office by Thursday evening. But, as one of Pichugin's lawyers, Georgy Kagener, told Gazeta.Ru, after hearing the statements of the two other defence lawyers, Tatiana Akimtseva and Oleg Solovyov, the judge postponed his decision till 1000 on Friday. At the request of the Prosecutor General's Office, on Thursday all journalists were removed from the courtroom when investigators, who had carried out the searches in Pichugin's house and office, were asked to testify.

If the court had ruled the search unlawful, it would have been easier for Pichugin's lawyers to have their client released from custody pending the investigation of his case. According to some reports, during the searches investigators seized several documents which were later used by the Prosecutor General's Office to persuade the court to sanction his arrest.

''The prosecutors seized the safe that belonged to him, and in violation of provisions, did not open it in the presence of witnesses. Two days later the Prosecutor General's Office asked the court to place him in custody, and the request was satisfied. And on June 26 Pichugin was charged,'' Kagener said.

According to Pichugin's lawyers, the searches were conducted on June 16. Investigators of the Prosecutor General's Office, accompanied by Alfa commandoes, arrived at Alexei Pichugin's apartment. ''Investigators seized several objects that had no relation to the investigation whatsoever,'' the lawyers said, but refused to specify what those objects were, citing the written pledge not to divulge data.

Furthermore, according to the lawyers Tatiana Akimtseva and Oleg Solovyov, the prosecutors did not allow them to attend the searches, which also constitutes a grave violation. During the search in Pichugin's house, the YUKOS employee felt unwell, but the prosecutors would not allow a doctor to examine him, the lawyers said.

Then the investigators went to Pichugin's office, where they examined the desk of his secretary without showing any search warrant to the company's security guards. In this connection, the defence filed a complaint against the actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office with the Basmannyi court of Moscow.

The Prosecutor General's Office representative Valery Laptev told the court that the searches were carried out within the framework of current legislation, but refused to elaborate.

Georgy Kagener told Gazeta.Ru that in the near future the defence team plans to challenge the Basmanny court ruling in a higher court. They will also ask the Supreme Court of Russia to free their client from custody. On July 15 the Moscow City Court refused to annul the Basmanny court's ruling authorizing Pichugin's arrest.

Alexei Pichugin stands accused of masterminding an attempt on the life of the former chief spokeswoman of the Moscow mayor's office Olga Kostina in November 1998. According to the prosecutors, an explosive device was planted near the door to her parents' apartment. Nobody was hurt in the blast, but in early 1999 Kostina unexpectedly resigned. Investigators refuse to elaborate why they suspect Pichugin of being involved in the incident.

The prosecutors also believe Pichugin is guilty of organizing the murder of a married couple by the name of Gorin. Their son is Pichugin's godchild.

According to the prosecutors, in 1998 Pichugin allegedly asked Mr Gorin to ''intimidate'' a mutual rival of theirs. Gorin then hired people who blew up a homemade explosive device in front of their rival's house. With their goal accomplished the matter was forgotten. But in 2002 Gorin allegedly remembered the incident and demanded remuneration for his services -- a large amount of money and a lucrative job for his wife. Pichugin was apparently unable to satisfy the request, and chose to kill his associates instead. According to some reports, however, those who perpetrated the Gorins' murder have already been convicted.

Pichugin's lawyers denounced the charges leveled against their client as ''sheer nonsense'' and do not rule out that they could be a part of the full-scale campaign unleashed against the oil company YUKOS.

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