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. Russia Oil Firm Russneft Securities Seized

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by Staff Writers
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 09, 2007
Investigators from Russia's Interior Ministry said Wednesday they had seized on a court order 100% of private oil group RussNeft's securities. The seizure had been requested by the Interior Ministry, whose investigators are conducting a tax evasion and illegal business probe against the company's CEO. "On July 31, Moscow's Lefortovo district court upheld a motion to seize 100% of the company's securities," the investigating committee said. A spokesman for a different Moscow court said August 6 that the court had refused an order for the seizure, but declined to give a reason for the decision.

CEO Mikhail Gutsiriyev, who denies the accusations against him, and has not yet been formally charged, resigned on July 30. RussNeft, one of Russia's top ten crude producers with recoverable reserves of more than 630 million metric tons (4.6 billion barrels), faces substantial back tax claims.

Moscow's Arbitration Court upheld in July a claim by the tax authorities over 3.7 billion rubles ($145 million) owed in back taxes for 2003 and the first quarter of 2004. The court is now examining a series of transactions involving RussNeft securities that the Federal Tax Service claims are illegal.

In a statement briefly posted on the company's Web site on July 30, Gutseriyev said he had been forced to resign and sell the oil business under pressure from prosecutors and tax authorities. However, the tycoon later said the decision to sell RussNeft was made by shareholders, and that the company would be sold at market value.

Earlier the company reported that Kremlin-friendly industrial holding Basic Element, controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, had applied to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service for permission to acquire a controlling stake in RussNeft. Under Russian law, the service must make a decision within three months. A source close to the negotiations said the deal could be worth $6.5-$7 billion.

If charged and convicted, Gutsiriyev faces up to six years in prison, in a case reminiscent of legal battles for the now bankrupt oil firm Yukos, widely seen in the West as punishment for its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky and as part of a Kremlin campaign to regain control of oil and gas assets.

Source: RIA Novosti

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Iraq Oil Deals Signed Under Saddam Up For Review
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 09, 2007
All contracts concluded by foreign oil companies with Saddam Hussein's regime and the Kurdistan authorities will be reviewed in line with Iraq's new legislation, the Iraqi oil minister said Wednesday. "A draft oil law stipulates that any contract concluded with the previous regime or the Kurdistan autonomy must be reviewed and brought in line with the new law," Hussain al-Shahristani said on arrival in Moscow.

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