Source Pravda.Ru

Is the top LUKOIL manager meant to die? - 26 September, 2002 - News

The story with Sergey Kukura’s kidnapping has a very unexpected solution

This is the idiocy of the current Russian life. One of Russia’s most conspicuous businessmen was kidnapped one fine day in a public place. Now, they ask for a ransom. All law-enforcement bodies, the State Duma, and the Office of the Public Prosecutor are very anxious about it. Russian oil giant LUKOIL, where kidnapped Sergey Kukura was working as the first vice president, announced a reward for any information that could help free him. Law-enforcement bodies are going hysterical. They were even ready to charge a journalist with assisting in Kukura’s kidnapping. They take offence of LUKOIL, which is not hurrying to share its confidential information with the investigation.

The most interesting thing happened later. Strangers drove up to Sergey Kukura’s country house and let him go. You will not see this even in movies. They say that Sergey Kukura did not wish to be accompanied by several armed bodyguards when he had to go somewhere. He allegedly thought that one bodyguard was enough. It is also known that Kukura possessed secret financial information and that he was aware of confidential transactions. Sergey Kukura was also a friend of LUKOIL President Vagit Alekperov. Furthermore, Kukura was the second most important person at LUKOIL. This means that he was in charge of a lot of things.

There is also another version possible. A man from the East, Vagit Alekperov, realized that Sergey Kukura was a very good first vice president. Alekperov was not really afraid of Kukura, but power is power. Kukura was likely to show more ambition for that power. In addition to that, he knew a lot. As it is well known, people from the East re very sensible and quick to take offence.

Let’s assume that Alekperov suggested that Kukura get out of the business without any problems. Maybe, he promised to allow him to set up his own business, after LUKOIL. Let’s assume that Sergey Kukura refused the offer and that he thought that it was all a joke. There are only two ways to go for a first vice president in a company as large as LUKOIL: either you become the president of this company, or you just leave.

Also, let’s assume that something unexpected happened a couple of days after that conversation when Kukura was driving to his office. Kukura’s drivers take him to a secret place in the Moscow region that is basically used for informal negotiations and rest. A person who knows Kukura very well tells him that it would be better to stay locked up for several days in order to think over Alekperov's suggestion. In other words, Kukura was supposed to decide how he was going to answer Alekperov.

A scandal starts in the country. LUKOIL is a very large petroleum company. Almost all of Russia’s law-enforcement bodies rush to search for the “kidnapped” vice president of the company. LUKOIL’s security service is actively involved in the process, as well as private detectives and journalists. No wonder, for the administration of the company promised a reward of 30 million rubles.

Let’s assume that the real organizers of the kidnapping calculated everything. They were ready for any development of the situation. They get involved in the game too: they made tapes and conducted negotiations with law-enforcement bodies. The LUKOIL security service comes into contact with the investigators, and then they actually take it under their control. They obtain control of all information pertaining to the process of investigation.

Then, the Russian media informed that two attempts to free the hostage failed. Sergey Kukura was still in the hands of his kidnappers. The reason why was very simple – LUKOIL did its best not to allow such a thing to happen. A week later, the Moscow regional Office of the Public Prosecutor starts accusing LUKOIL of harming the investigation. In other words, the security service of the company was not really willing to present the necessary information to investigators, or it did not render it at all. In the meantime, State Duma deputies show great interest in the kidnapping. Why would they? The Federal Security Bureau got involved in the investigation at the end of last week as well. When this happened, the kidnappers took a break for 24 hours.

Soon, a sensation happened. The kidnappers brought Sergey Kukura to his country house and let him go. He returned home in the afternoon. The LUKOIL administration received the news. LUKOIL President Vagit Alekperov went to see Sergey Kukura. Investigators came later in the evening. Most likely, Sergey Kukura had already learned the words that he was supposed to tell the investigators when they arrived. He told them that he could not describe who kidnapped him or where they were keeping him. He just said that it was like a cellar, something like a pool. Police decided that Kukura was under the influence of drugs, so they called medical experts. According to the latest information, the police are still on duty near Kukura’s house. They are waiting to him to come to his senses.

It is hard to believe that the kidnapping of the LUKOIL vice president only happened for the sake of telephone talks for two weeks. It is really hard to believe so.

Media outlets were launching their versions, one after another. LUKOIL spokespeople stated that Sergey Kukura was released as a resultof a special operation that was conducted by law-enforcement bodies. They also stated that they paid the reward that they promised. Who was that lucky man? What is the truth? Most likely, we will never know. As soon as FSB showed up, there were no chances to conceal the performance.

It does not actually matter what Sergey Kukura says regarding Vagit Alekperov’s suggestion to quit the petroleum business. Most likely, Sergey Kukura will have to retire. Let’s hope that it will be a happy end of the story, for other stories with previous vice presidents of the oil giant have had lamentable endings.

Vice President of the oil company LUKOIL Vitaly Shmidt died in his own apartment in Moscow on August 31, 1997. He came to Moscow from abroad in order to offer Vagit Alekperov a plan to restructure all offshore branch companies of LUKOIL (there are over 150 of them). Shmidt offered to place all offshore companies under the control of two major companies that he was personally in charge of. Therefore, he would be in control of every little transaction. It is not known how Vagit Alekperov reacted to the offer, but Vitaly Shmidt suddenly died.

Doctors diagnosed his death as a heart attack. However, the Israeli doctors who examined him said that his heart was just fine. In addition, there were no heart medicines found on him when he died.

The newspaper Novaya Gazeta wrote in an article in 2000 that Alekperov came to Shmidt’s apartment 30-40 minutes after he died. Alekperov examined Shmidt’s study and took away everything that was there, including documents and keys. Neither Shmidt’s son Vadim, nor his wife Svetlana inherited anything. Vitaly Shmidt’s share in companies that are affiliated with LUKOIL was split between other partners. A reporter of the mentioned newspaper said that Shmidt’s son had the right to kidnap Sergey Kukura, within the scope of Russian business ethics, of course. In addition to that, Sergey Kukura might be kidnapped on the approval of new Russian statesmen who wished to sound out the rich company.

One may say that all of the articles in newspapers were ordered by LUKOIL’s enemies or competitors. However, there is definitely something going on. Sergey Kukura’s kidnapping stirred up society and the media, as well as the government. It is not ruled out that some important events might happen around LUKOIL in the nearest future.

Vasily Akimov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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