Court Seizes Shares In Russneft

Russian oil firm in middle of criminal probe.

All of the shares of Russian oil firm Russneft have been seized as part of a criminal probe into tax evasion and "illegal business practices," the interior ministry said Aug. 8. Moscow's Lefortovo court on July 31 "approved the request to arrest 100% of the shares of this company. The shares have now been seized," the ministry said.

The request was made by the ministry in relation to a criminal case against the company's former chief executive Mikhail Gutseriyev for tax evasion and "illegal business activities," the statement said.

The court action comes a week after Gutseriyev announced he was quitting the oil company and selling his shares, citing "unprecedented persecution" by the authorities. Gutseriyev said the attacks came in the form of multiple inquiries by Russian tax authorities, the prosecutor general's office and the interior ministry.

Basic Element, the holding company of Oleg Deripaska, said later that it had put in a request to the federal anti-monopoly committee for Russneft to be absorbed into its energy subsidiary.

The company, which employs 17,000 people, is one of the country's top ten oil firms by production. Russneft pumped 17 million tons of oil last year of recoverable reserves estimated at 630 million tons.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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