Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Former Yukos shareholder to sue Russia for $33.8 billion
BRUSSELS, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - GML, formerly the majority shareholder of Yukos, intends to sue the Russian government for $33.8 billion over the seizure of assets belonging to the now defunct oil company, an Internet publication said. EUobserver.com said that GML, which is registered in Britain, argues that Russia violated a major international energy agreement - the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) - by seizing the company's assets. The first court hearing on the case will be held at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on November 17. Yukos formally ceased to exist in November 2007, after its assets had been sold off through a series of liquidation auctions to meet vast creditor claims. State oil company Rosneft bought up the lion's share of the production assets, becoming Russia's largest oil producer. Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. He has consistently denied all charges against him, saying he was punished for supporting the tiny pro-Western opposition, and that the liquidation of Yukos was engineered by corrupt government officials aiming to seize lucrative oil assets. GML chief Tim Osborne insists that, despite the fact that Moscow signed but did not ratify the energy treaty, it is legally binding for Russia. "Russia is very keen to portray itself as a responsible member of the political family, and if it wants to join the WTO and the OECD and other rules-based organizations, at some stage it's going to have to abide by those rules," he told EUobserver. "The Russians are making every effort to portray the ECT as a lame duck, a still-born instrument," Osborne also said. The EUobserver also said that should GML win the suit, Rosneft could face legal problems.