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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Russneft appeals against share seizure

MOSCOW, August 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russneft, one of Russia's top ten oil and gas producers, has appealed against the arrest of all its shares, a spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court said. Russneft's shares were frozen Wednesday at the request of the Interior Ministry as part of a probe into Russneft's former owner, Mikhail Gutseriyev, accused of tax evasion and illegal business operations. The businessman denies the charges. "An appeal has been filed with the Lefortovo Court of Moscow against a July 31 ruling to seize 100% of Russneft's shares," Anna Usachyova said, adding that the date for hearing the appeal at Moscow City Court had not been set yet. Gutseriyev, who is 31st on the Forbes list of the world's richest people with personal wealth of $3 billion, resigned in late July. Russia's respected business daily Vedomosti quoted him as telling his employees he was being forced out, citing pressure from law enforcement and tax authorities. The Arbitration Court of Moscow ruled in July to charge Russneft 3.7 billion rubles ($150 million) in back taxes for 2003 and the first quarter of 2004. BasEl, the company of Kremlin-friendly aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, said last week it had applied with the anti-monopoly authorities to buy Russneft. But the head of the anti-monopoly service, Igor Artemyev, said Thursday BasEl's request failed to meet the requirements and was not being considered yet. Vedomosti said last week that Gutseriyev's problems stemmed from his conflict with the Kremlin and the reluctance to sell his company. He set himself on a collision course with the Kremlin by buying some of the embattled oil company Yukos' assets shortly before it was declared bankrupt. The daily quoted informed sources as saying that last year Gutseriyev received an offer to sell his company for $1 billion to a state controlled structure but turned it down, saying the price was ridiculous. Experts estimate that RussNeft is worth $8-10 billion. Russia's newest vertically integrated medium-sized company, RussNeft has recoverable reserves exceeding 630 million metric tons (4.6 billion barrels).

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