Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky (born June 26, 1963) is the Jewish oligarch who was once Russia’s richest man. Khodorkovsky was the CEO of the country’s largest oil company before he was arrested in 2003 and charged with tax evasion. Right before he was imprisoned, his shares were transferred to Jacob Rothschild. Shortly before Christmas, 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned him while he was hiding after a decade in jail.
He is a Russian businessman, a former Komsomol activist who became one of Russia's Jewish oligarchs at a very early age. He was later convicted for fraud and tax evasion and received an 8-year sentence. As of 2004, Khodorkovsky was the wealthiest man in Russia, and was the 16th wealthiest man in the world, although much of his wealth evaporated because of the collapse in the value of his holding in the Russian petroleum company YUKOS.
On October 25, 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested at Novosibirsk airport by the Russian prosecutor general's office on charges of fraud. Shortly thereafter, on October 31, the government under Vladimir Putin froze shares of Yukos because of tax charges. The Russian Government took further actions against Yukos, leading to a collapse in the share price. It purported to sell a major asset of Yukos in December 2004.
On May 31, 2005, Khodorkovsky was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to nine years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 8 years. A wide variety of international journalists, politicians, and businessmen — both in Russia and internationally — consider this process to be largely political; in 2003, prior to his arrest, Khodorkovsky funded several Russian parties, including Yabloko, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and even, allegedly, the pro-Kremlin United Russia. Many believe that, even though it would have been unnecessary for Kremlin to influence the court directly in order to guarantee a guilty verdict (mainly due to the circumstances of his acquisition of vast sums of money during privatization efforts after the collapse of the Soviet economic system), politics may have played a role in the fact that Khodorkovsky was singled out for prosecution among a dozen of Russia's oligarchs. Kremlin involvement has not been proven, but many dispute the correctness of investigations and court proceedings. Much of the Western media covering the situation tended to side with Khodorkovsky.