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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gutseriyev 'goes to ground in Turkey'

muymanrun.gif (48667 bytes)05 September 2007 - Upstream OnLine - Russian prosecutors have said that fugitive oil tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev, who has been the focus of an international manhunt since he accused to Kremlin of trying to steal Russneft, has been traced to Turkey, a Moscow court heard today. However, Gutseriyev's lawyer Alla Yaminskaya said there was no evidence he had left Russia, adding he was at an undisclosed location undergoing medical treatment. Gutseriyev, former owner of oil player Russneft, disappeared from view soon after accusing the authorities of fabricating criminal charges to force him out of his company. Gutseriyev is wanted on tax evasion charges in a case observers say is a new front in a long-standing Kremlin campaign to wrest back control of Russian energy assets from private investors. Prosecutors at a court hearing today said Gutseriyev travelled from Russia to ex-Soviet neighbour Belarus, and from there flew to Antalya, a resort city in southern Turkey. "There is no doubt that it is him that left the country," Reuters quoted prosecutor Viktor Gvozdyev as telling the court. "Gutseriyev is not the sort of person you could get mixed up with someone else." It was not clear if Gutseriyev had travelled onward from Turkey. Unconfirmed media reports have placed him in London while others have said he is in Azerbaijan. The court turned down an application from Yaminskaya to revoke his arrest warrant. She said border police may have mistaken someone else for Gutseriyev, and there was no evidence he had left Russia. "He is undergoing medical treatment," she said, though she did not say where. Shortly before he disappeared, Gutseriyev agreed to sell Russneft to Kremlin-friendly tycoon Oleg Deripaska for a price market sources put at $6 billion. Gutseriyev's 21-year-old son Chingiskhan died suddenly last month in Moscow after what the family said was a car accident. A leading newspaper called the death mysterious, saying police and ambulance services had no records of such a crash. Yesterday Deripaska asked Russian anti-trust authorities to approve the purchase of Russneft. But the sale has been complicated because of a separate court ruling ordering the seizure of Russneft shares. A Russneft appeal against the seizure was rejected by a Moscow court today. Some market sources told Reuters a power struggle is under way inside the Kremlin between those happy for Deripaska to buy the company and hawks who want to use the courts to nationalise it outright, passing the assets to a company such as Rosneft.

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