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Court upholds $145 mln tax claim against crude producer RussNeft

The Moscow Arbitration Court upheld Tuesday a decision by the Russian Federal Tax Service to charge 3.7 billion rubles ($145 million) in back taxes from crude producer RussNeft.

The Federal Tax Service decided January 16 to demand additional tax payments from RussNeft, one of Russia's top 10 oil and gas companies, for 2003 and the first quarter of 2004. Two weeks later, the Interior Ministry's investigative committee launched a probe into gross tax evasion by RussNeft. At the same time, the court slightly reduced the sum of tax claims, partially satisfying RussNeft's lawsuit. RussNeft's annual oil output stands at around 17 million metric tons (125 million bbl).

The owner of Russian oil firm Russneft, billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, will cede control in his company to a Kremlin-friendly firm after months of state pressure, sources close to talks said on Tuesday. “I think the company will have another president within a week,” one source told Reuters. Vedomosti business daily reported that Gutseriyev would sell the company to Russia's second richest man Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, for around $6.5 billion. A second industry source told Reuters that state-controlled oil giant Rosneft was also looking at Russneft. (rian.ru, reuters.com)