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Court orders arrest of Russian oil mogul

A Russian court has issued an arrest warrant for the former head of a Russian oil company who is on the lam amid tax-evasion and illegal-business accusations.

Billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, who fled Russia some time after August 6, resigned as CEO of NK Russneft OAO on July 30, the Russian information agency Novosti reports. Moscow’s Arbitration Court had upheld a government revenue-service claim that Russneft owes more than $145 million in back taxes from 2003 and Q1 2004. The court is now examining a series of transactions involving Russneft securities that Russia’s Federal Tax Service alleged were illegal. Several Gutseriyev associates also have been accused of fraud and illegal activities.

Russneft - one of Russia’s Top 10 crude producers, with recoverable reserves of more than 4.6 billion barrels - faces substantial back-taxes claims, the agency said. Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court froze all oil company shares July 31 at the request of the Interior Ministry’s investigations committee. If charged and convicted, Gutsiriyev faces up to six years in prison.

Gutseriyev’s son, Chingiskhan, died in a Moscow car accident last week. (m&