Moscow court targets Russneft oil tycoon over tax claim
August, 29th 2007
A Moscow court issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for the former chief executive of Russian oil group Russneft, who is accused of tax evasion, a court spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman said she was unable to say whether the oil executive, Mikhail Gutseriyev, was still in Russia.
The billionaire resigned in July from Russneft, one of Russia's top ten oil producers, after writing to employees to complain of an "unprecedented hounding" by the Russian government.
His associates have also been personally accused of fraud and illegal activities, and the tax authorities are questioning some of Russneft's transactions.
Gutseriyev said in his letter to employees that he planned to sell his holding in the group to Basic Element, a holding company controlled by the pro-Kremlin businessman Oleg Deripaska.
Basic Element last month applied for permission with Russia's competition authorities to acquire Russneft, which accounts for about three per cent of Russia's crude output.
Local press reports have indicated that Basic Element was offering about $ 6.5 billion (4.8 billion euros) for the company.
Reports in the Russian press have also claimed that Gutseriyev's son, Chingiskhan, died in a Moscow car accident last week.
The case has echoes of the Yukos affair, in which Yukos, once Russia's biggest oil group, was hit with backdated tax claims that backrupted the group and led to the imprisonment of its boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has led a drive to bring Russia's strategic energy and natural resources industries under state control.