Court postpones hearing TNK-BP tax case

A Moscow court has postponed hearing TNK-BP's appeal against the Federal Tax Service's (FNS) push to collect $144 million (4 billion rubles) from the company in back taxes for 2001.

The hearing was postponed until May 23 after FNS attorneys asked for time to familiarize themselves with documents submitted to the court.

Preliminary hearings have been completed, and today was to have seen the meat of the case.

TNK-BP was slapped with the unpaid bill in November 2004, after the FNS checked TNK's operations in 2001, before it merged with British Petroleum two years later.

The company owes 2.5 billion rubles, but has incurred about 1.5 billion rubles in fines and penalties.

It was announced Monday that the FNS had reviewed TNK-BP's bill, hitting the company with an additional $792.2-million (22 billion rubles) bill.

"We have time to form a position and to agree or to disagree to the claims laid," a TNK-BP spokesman said.

The company's Executive Director for Development TNK-BP Viktor Vekselberg said Monday that the tax claims were unjustifiable.

Vekselberg also said that if this issue cannot be settled, the company "will go to court".

On Tuesday, TNK-BP President Robert Dudley asked the press not to dramatize the case. He was speaking to journalists in the lobby at the Russian Economic Forum. He said the company is talking with the government and has two weeks to respond.

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