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Thursday, May 29, 2008

TNK executive faces $950 mln back tax charges - source

MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - An oil executive who worked at Russia's TNK before its merger with BP is under investigation for tax evasion exceeding $950 million, an Interior Ministry source said on Thursday. The Interior Ministry's economic security department said earlier on Thursday that an enquiry had been opened into tax evasion by "an executive of a major oil company", but did not give the name of the company or the executive. A ministry source told RIA Novosti that the probe was launched against "A TNK executive who worked at the company before its merger with BP." TNK and BP set up a joint venture, TNK-BP, in 2003, with the British oil major holding 50% in the company. The statement echoes earlier media reports on tax evasion claims for 2001-2003 facing a TNK executive. The charges envision a fine or a prison sentence of up to six years. TNK-BP said it knew nothing of the probe. "The company has no official information on the case," a spokesman said. The Russian-British company has faced a number of back-tax claims in the last few years, triggering speculation that it is being targeted by authorities seeking to bring major oil and gas assets back under their control. In 2006, the oil producer paid nearly $1.5 billion in tax arrears. Analysts interviewed by RIA Novosti on Wednesday said they believed the ongoing dispute between Russian and British shareholders of TNK-BP could lead to the company being bought up by a Russian state giant, most likely Gazprom but possibly Rosneft.

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