Embattled Russian oil firm Yukos said Thursday that promissory notes worth over US$3 billion (Ђ2.5 billion) had gone missing and may have been stolen from a defunct trading subsidiary whose former general manager is the subject of a criminal lawsuit.
The news appears to nudge what was once Russia's largest oil producer closer to the abyss and could add further weight to a bankruptcy suit filed by Yukos' creditors that is due to be heard Tuesday.
The notes essentially IOUs guaranteed by Yukos "may have been sold, at a reduced rate, to external parties," the statement said. Were they to be presented to the mother company in the future, they could be used to "reduce the consolidated company's value," it said.
Yukos said it had learnt the notes had gone missing last fall from the subsidiary Fargoil but claimed its attempts to track them down had been frustrated by the subsidiary's management. Fargoil was dissolved in December.
Yukos suggested the promissory notes' disappearance had been arranged by parties hoping to receive Yukos assets through the bankruptcy procedure.
"It was likely that they had been stolen by members of the Fargoil management, possibly as a result of incentives provided by organizations that may benefit from the demise of Yukos," the statement said.
The news comes one day after Fargoil general manager Antonio Valdes Garcia, who has dual Spanish and Russian citizenship, was charged by prosecutors Wednesday with siphoning $13 billion (Ђ11 billion) from the firm by organizing fictional oil sales along with two other Yukos managers.
Garcia, who is currently prohibited from leaving the country, was arrested in June 2005.
Yukos spokeswoman Claire Davidson said the company did not know if Garcia was involved in the notes' disappearance.
Yukos saw its biggest production unit sold in December 2004 against a US$27.5 billion (Ђ22.8 billion) back tax bill in what observers said was a carefully engineered drive by the Kremlin to regain influence in the crucial oil sector as well as punishment for the political aspirations of the company's jailed founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, reports AP.
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