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Disputes in the field of telecommunications

Misfortunes once again strike one of the largest mobile phone operators “VympelCom”,  also known as “Beeline.”

The company, whose assets are worth $5,5-8 billion USD, has once again caught the attention of state law-enforcement authorities. This time, “VympelCom” is being accused of tax evasion for the year 2001.

“VympelCom” has announced yesterday that the company had received a deed including preliminary results of an audit for 2001. The document informs of the company’s debt. According to the deed, “VympelCom” owns 2,5 billion rubles worth of taxes as well as 1,9 billion rubles worth of fines; the grand total comes down to 4,4 billion rubles (nearly $157 million USD).

According to head of the company's press-service Mikhail Umarov, major portion of that money refers to the less charges of “VympelCom” incurred in connection with its business with the “KB Impulse” subsidiary located in Moscow. He also noted that the deed does not possess any legal powers.

The company's attempt to calm everyone has gone by unnoticed for the markets. While being already heated up by today’s revelations made by ExxonMobile in regards to its refusal to participate in the nearing auction of “Yuganskneftegas”, an entire array of stocks of Russia’s leading companies have plunged by 3-8%. In Germany, “VympelCom”’s stocks have gone down in price 15%.

Nowadays, experts are not so much worried about the actual claims of Russia’s tax services, but of the amount of such claims. In her interview to PRAVDA.Ru analyst Elena Bazhenova stated that in 2001 the company’s income had been $422 million USD. Thus, the state tax claims exceed the company's income by 37%.

Bazhenova does not rule out the possibility that Russia’s tax services do in fact possess legitimate grounds to come forward with such claims. Nevertheless, she is willing to examine the papers only in conjunction to the “Megafon” case. As a reminder, lawsuits between “Megafon” shareholders have already caused the company major problems. The company was unable to receive the $100-million-dollar-credit from the International Financial Corporation (IFC). In addition, “Megafon” postponed its decision to invest its bonds on the sum of 6,8 million rubles.

Thus, it can be assumed that such “attack” on “VympelCom” by the state's financial services was organized with the help of an administrative resource, possessed by “Megafon”. Perhaps, such “attack” was a way of pressing the so-called “Alpha-groups” in regards to their position concerning the future of “Megafon” share holding. …

“In any way, we have to wait and see what the future brings, states Elena Bazhenova. “Although, judging by the amount of misfortunes concerning “VympelCom” and “Alpha-groups”, this could lead us to believe in political risks around “VympelCom”,” says she. Bazhenova refers to the lawsuit concerning illegal entrepreneurial activity of “VympelCom.”

“VympelCom” has to bring the matters to court, states Shekhmametyev. Most likely, legal proceedings will take place in the foreseeable future.
 

Sergey Malinin