Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Russian oil firm RussNeft to elect new president Aug. 30 -1
MOSCOW, August 9 (RIA Novosti) - Oleg Gordeyev, acting president of private Russian oil group RussNeft, has been nominated for the post of company president, and will face a shareholders' vote at an extraordinary meeting on August 30. RussNeft CEO Mikhail Gutsiriyev resigned on July 30 amid accusations of tax evasion and illegal business made by the Interior Ministry. The company, 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 tax authorities that RussNeft owed over 3.7 billion rubles ($145 million) 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 against company founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and as part of a Kremlin campaign to regain control of oil and gas assets. Investigators from Russia's Interior Ministry said Wednesday they had seized 100% of RussNeft's securities on a court order. The seizure had been requested by the Interior Ministry. "On July 31, Moscow's Lefortovo district court upheld a motion to seize 100% of the company's securities," the investigating committee said.