Vladimir Yevtushenkov Photo credit: Dyor, via Wikimedia Commons

Vladimir Yevtushenkov

Moscow Court Orders Seizure of Oil Stake Held by Russian Tycoon

The court order followed claims by prosecutors that the stake was illegally privatized, Russian agencies reported.

MOSCOW - A Moscow court on Thursday ordered the nationalization of a stake in an oil firm held by a detained oligarch, raising concern about signs of a state-orchestrated asset grab.

A judge at Moscow's Arbitration Court ordered the return to the state of the stake held by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov's holding firm Sistema in oil company Bashneft (IW 1000/292).

The court order followed claims by prosecutors that the stake was illegally privatized, Russian agencies reported.

Sistema responded by saying in a statement that it "does not agree with the court decision and is considering filing an appeal."

Sistema has one month to appeal against the verdict.

It warned that the court case "could have a significant negative influence on Sistema's investment strategy, its financial state and debt obligations, especially if today's court decision... enters force."

Yevtushenkov is being held under house arrest after being dramatically arrested last month on money laundering charges connected to the Bashneft sale, in a move that drew comparisons with the prosecution of former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Russia's 15th-wealthiest man with a fortune of $9 billion, according to Forbes, Yevtushenkov has now been reduced to wearing an electronic bracelet.

The probe against him centers on how his holding company Sistema acquired Bashneft and comes after speculation that Russia's biggest oil producer Rosneft (IW 1000/38) -- run by Putin's loyal lieutenant Igor Sechin -- was keen to get its hands on the oil firm.

Sistema is a vast holding which has major interests in the country's biggest mobile telephone company MTS and a range of other assets.

The company said Thursday that its subsidiaries "are working normally and most are profitable and do not require financing from Sistema."

Yevtushenkov is the most high-profile business figure to fall foul of the authorities since Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man and head of the now-defunct Yukos oil firm, who spent a decade in jail in what his supporters say was revenge for challenging the Kremlin.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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