New Yukos vice president says he faces criminal charges

The new vice president of Russia's stricken oil company Yukos said Monday that prosecutors planned to file criminal charges against him, just days after he was put in charge of efforts to save the firm from bankruptcy, Russian news agencies reported.

Vasily Aleksanian said a Moscow court was to consider prosecutors' request to charge him with embezzlement and money-laundering on Wednesday, according to Interfax, RIA Novosti and ITAR-Tass.

Yukos has been crippled by billions of dollars in politically tinged back-tax bills, and was put under external supervision Tuesday before bankruptcy hearings on June 27.

The prosecutor general's office declined to comment on the matter. Aleksanian, who formerly headed Yukos' legal department, was appointed vice president on Friday with the task "to save the company assets ... and protect interests of both shareholders and creditors of the company."

Yukos has been crippled by billions of dollars in politically tinged back-tax bills, and was put under external supervision Tuesday before bankruptcy hearings on June 27.

A consortium of Western banks sought to have Yukos declared bankrupt after it defaulted on nearly half of a US$1 billion syndicated loan arranged three years ago by Societe Generale SA with Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup Inc. and HSBC PLC.

Observers have noted that some of the banks have extensive activities in Russia and suggest that they could be acting to win the favor of the Russian government.

The bankruptcy hearings are likely to be the closing chapters on Yukos, which was built up by billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky to become Russia's biggest oil producer before his arrest and conviction and the company's dismantlement.

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion in a Siberian prison camp. Observers say the criminal case against him, and the related back tax case against the company, were punishment for his political ambitions and a step to reassert state influence over Russia's strategically important oil sector, reports AP.

O.Ch.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team