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Nick Paton Walsh
18 Nov 2003 00:00
A Russian MP asked prosecutors to freeze shares in Roman Abramovich’s oil giant Sibneft last week, fuelling fears that the Kremlin-backed inquiry into another oil group, Yukos, may now spread to the Chelsea football club boss.
The MP, Vladimir Yudin, said there should be an investigation into how Sibneft, which has provided much of Abramovich’s wealth, was privatised in the 1990s. Sibneft denies any wrongdoing.
Yudin’s complaints in July last year led to the launch of the inquiry into Yukos, conducted by the prosecutor general.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was arrested recently on fraud charges, resigned as head of Yukos on Monday to distance the company from the allegations.
Yukos shares were frozen last week, signalling what many saw as Kremlin hardliners’ reassertion of state control over big business.
The prosecutor’s office yesterday declined to confirm that an investigation into Sibneft had been launched.
A source close to Yudin, a new MP and relatively uninfluential figure in the Kremlin, has said his complaints into Abramovich’s company were compiled with the assistance of ‘the competent organs’’ — a Russian euphemism for law enforcement.
President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, played down Khodorkovsky’s arrest in interviews with Italian media by saying that few found it strange when Enron chiefs were hauled before the United States courts.
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