Sibneft Under Investigation (Again)

Sergey Stepashin accuses Roman Abramovich of tax evasion again

It seems that it was a mistake to think that the differences between Russia's oligarchs and law-enforcement bodies were not serious. It was believed that the Kremlin's attack against large businesses had been exaggerated. It seems that they have not learnt the lessons of Vladimir Gusinsky or Boris Berezovsky. However, it has recently become known that the Interior Ministry is investigating the financial activity of the oil company Sibneft, RBC news agency reported with reference to a law-enforcement bodies source.

According to the source, investigators are interested in Auditing Chamber reports concerning the company's tax payments to local and federal budgets. In addition, the ministry's investigators have recently had a meeting with Sibneft managers. The press service of the company has refused to comment on the details, although it has been confirmed that Sibneft's CEO Yevgeny Shvidler has had a meeting with Interior Ministry's investigators.

Information concerning the investigation of Sibneft started in July of this year. The Office of the Prosecutor General also summoned the company's president for interrogation. However, neither the oil company, nor law-enforcement bodies confirmed these contacts at the time. No new interrogations or searches followed. There was an impression that the investigation focused  on the financial and economic activities of the International Financial Association Menatep and Mikhail Khodorkovsky's company Yukos. As it turns out, the Office of the Prosecutor General has simply taken its time with Sibneft. It is not excluded that the interest in the company started when certain materials found in Yukos's offices that have been searched. No one doubts that the Sibneft case is directly linked with the Yukos affair. As it is well known, Yukos and Sibneft announced the completion of their merger on October 10th. Most likely the Office of the Prosecutor General is hurrying because the two companies will manage to cover their tracks after the merger.

Sibneft's former main shareholder, Chukotka regional governor Roman Abramovich has reacted to tax evasion accusations announced by the Auditing Chamber. In an interview to an American business newspaper, the oligarch said that he did not know who Sergey Stepashin was (the chairman of the Auditing Chamber) and he was not interested in his opinion. 

One has to acknowledge that Roman Abramovich has become the first politician who publicly expressed his disdain with heavy-handed Kremlin tactics. However, Russian law-enforcement bodies have not reacted Abramovich's comments. Nevertheless, the Office of the Prosecutor General continues its investigaton of Sibneft. However, Roman Abramovich has managed cash-out his assets Russia and to become a respectable owner of aLondon football club. Will he stay there for long? As experience shows, any Russian person may be put on Interpol's wanted list, especially if that person is an oligarch.

Author`s name Olga Savka