Russia » Economics
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Persecution of Russian Oil Companies Tough

Oligarchs to be persecuted until the last kopeck concealed from the government is paid
It has become a tradition already that Russian high-ranking officials are more frank being abroad than at home. Russia's Vice Premier Alexey Kudrin, Eastern Europe's best minister of finance in 2003, during his visit to Davos told foreign investors that the RF Government would continue the persecution of oil companies concerning unpaid taxes. What is more, the companies will be made pay all taxes concealed from the government within the period starting with 1998. The vice premier added that new stricter laws would have the retroactive effect if necessary. This is not a surprise at all, as Russia's pro-president party enjoys the majority in the parliament. This tactics is inadmissible in the world, but quite possible in this country unfortunately.  

It seemed several days ago that the whole of the situation was not decided yet and that other variants were possible. Russia's Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref even made some promises concerning amnesty of capitals. However, Alexey Kudrin put an end to the problem during his visit to Davos. After that, the only thing German Gref could do was to admit that if amnesty of the capital were to happen, it would be in 30 or 40 years.

Now, the RF Prosecutor's Office is focused upon Leonid Nevzlin, one of the Yukos co-owners currently staying in Israel. Nevzlin's attorney Dmitry Kharitonov has recently told the Russian mass media that new charges might be brought against his client. Charges previously brought against Leonid Nevzlin - tax evasion, non-payment of large-scale insurance dues, money transfers to off-shore zones, deliberate reporting of false information to fiscal departments and so on - are the reason why the man was put on the international wanted list.

Dmitry Kharitonov says that investigator of the Prosecutor's Office Salavat Karimov has promised to provide documents concerning the charges, but failed. That is why the attorney is sure that new charges may be soon brought against the client. If so, an arrest warrant will be issued next. The attorney adds that as far as Leonid Nevzlin has decorations he is to be granted amnesty in connection with these charges.

The charges brought against Leonid Nevzlin are a special case, which is proved by statements made by high-ranking officials. When Alexey Kudrin explained the present-day situation in Russia to foreigners he named those companies that would be in the focus of the government. They are Yukos, Sibneft and LUKOIL. The situation with Yukos is quite clear today. The other day, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Yury Biryukov has stated that ten people were put on the international wanted list in connection with the Yukos case. They are large shareholders Leonid Nevzlin, Vladimir Dubov and Mikhail Brudno; the people are accused of tax evasion and other crimes. Seven of the ten people are chief executives of false companies through which sale of oil was imitated for further tax evasion. It has been rumored in the mass media that Alexey Pichugin, one of the Yukos security service managers, confessed that Leonid Nevzlin allegedly initiated one of the assassinations of which Alexey Pichugin is currently accused.

What about Sibneft and LUKOIL? Sibneft has recently reported record oil production. LUKOIL was Russia's first company to enter the Saudi market: the oil company won a prestigious tender for exploration of gas fields there. To all appearances, these companies understand the situation perfectly well and will do their best to ward off a dangerous blow or to minimize the damage. But there is no escaping fate. Alexey Kudrin said in Davos that if a crime is committed, it must be punished even if it would damage the country's investment attractiveness. So, it is still a pressing issue for Russia which company is to be next in the focus.

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