Readings of the verdict began on Monday, with three justices taking turns reading the indictment in the trial of Khodorkovsky and fellow Yukos founder Platon Lebedev.

The panel of three judges ruled Khodorkovsky, founder of the Yukos oil firm, had committed theft with conspiracy, damage to property rights via fraud, malicious failure to obey a court order and personal tax evasion.

The court is still to hear judgement on three other charges Khodorkovsky is facing, after the trial was adjourned.

Only when formal verdicts have been delivered on all seven counts, which could take two days, will sentencing be passed.

Khodorkovsky’s defence lawyer said he held little hope for his client.

“In the hour that the judge has been talking, it is clear that the verdict is guilty… (the conclusions of the judges are) completely following the conclusions of the prosecution,” Yuri Schmidt told reporters.

Once Russia’s wealthiest man, Khodorkovsky has been in prison for 17 months awaiting the outcome of the trial.

The 41-year-old businessman says he is innocent and that the trial is politically motivated.

Alongside him in court was Yukos minority shareholder Platon Lebedev, also facing seven charges of fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion that date back to alleged deals struck in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up.

The case has been widely condemned as a witch-hunt to bring down Khodorkovsky for his political ambitions.

It has drawn international interest, particularly from the US.

Last month, US Secretary of State said Washington would be watching the trial closely.

The business community has also been shaken by developments surrounding the company.

Yukos has collapsed under the pressure of its A$36.22b tax bill.

Prosecutors are seeking the maximum 10-year prison term for Khodorkovsky.

But the case is unlikely to end there.

A statement by the prosecutor general’s spokeswoman late last week announced unspecified fresh charges were to brought against Khodorkovsky.