In 2003, Robert Amsterdam was retained to represent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, at the time the wealthiest businessman in Russia who was arrested and jailed following a confrontation with President Vladimir Putin.
The arrest of Khodorkovsky, who was falsely charged with fraud and tax evasion and put through a show trial, served as a cover for the Russian government to expropriate his $21 billion oil company, Yukos, and eliminate him from political activity.
Robert Amsterdam’s role on the legal team included the recruitment and oversight of a multinational team of experts and lawyers tasked with defeating the state’s case, challenging the government’s theft of Yukos, and securing Khodorkovsky’s release from prison. Amsterdam and the international legal team crafted an innovative legal and public advocacy strategy to publicly demonstrate the absence of substance to the charges and motivate foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to lobby for his release.
Over the course of the first trial, Amsterdam made regular appearances on Russian and international television, where he strongly condemned the unlawful conduct of the Russian authorities, resulting in his detention by Russian security forces and forced expulsion from the country in 2005.
Amsterdam continued his defense of Khodorkovsky from abroad, touring European capitals and developing a coalition of support. The firm was also responsible for guiding several actions on behalf of Khodorkovsky and shareholders of Yukos under the Energy Charter Treaty with the Council of Europe, as well as the European Court of Human Rights.
The firm also published a seminal White Paper on the Khodorkovsky case, Abuse of State Authority in the Russian Federation, which detailed and analyzed every false claim and charge put forward by the Russian government, and framed the case in the broader context of President Putin’s crackdown on human rights.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was successfully freed from prison in 2013, and now leads the prominent opposition movement, Open Russia.