The Garda Síochána has cast the Irish State in the role of “lapdog” of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a Dublin court has been told.
The claim was made during opening comments in a case where the former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky is seeking the release of more than €100 million frozen since 2011 under Irish money laundering legislation.
Remy Farrell SC, for Mr Khodorkovsky, said funds held by a Guernsey trust in the Irish banking system were frozen in 2011 on the application of the Garda, based on convictions handed down by the Russian courts which had been condemned as political across the EU.
The action by the Garda “ was the only state action in the free world” that was based on the Russian convictions.
Mr Khodorkovsky was pardoned by Mr Putin in 2013 following international pressure and negotiations conducted by the German government on behalf of the EU.
His release, after 10 years in a Siberian penal colony, was welcomed in the Dáil by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Judge Timothy Lucey was told.
Mr Farrell said the court would hear that Mr Khodorkovsky was convicted in show trials reminiscent of the Soviet era, that the charges were “legal nonsense”, and were brought because Mr Khodorkovsky was seen as a political threat to Mr Putin. Mr Khodorkovsky has now been given asylum in the UK.
Michael McDowell SC, instructed by the Chief State Solicitor, said the onus was on Mr Khodorkovsky to show that there were not reasonable grounds for the Garda investigation into suspected money laundering.
Under Irish money laundering legislation the Garda can seek 28 day freezing orders in relation to money suspected of being linked to crime. The orders can be repeatedly renewed at the end of the period, as has happened with the funds which Mr Khodorkovsky says are his.
Mr Farrell said the money came from Mr Khodorkovsky’s oil company, Yukos, which was “corruptly” seized by the Russian state after charges were brought against Mr Khodorkovsky in 2003, after he clashed with Mr Putin.
The case, in the District Court in Dublin, is expected to take a number of days.