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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

New Gazprom Oil Unit Probed Over Excess Production

10.08.2006 - MosNews - The Russian prosecutor's office has launched a new oil-related case on Wednesday, Aug. 9. This time serious charges are being made against Sibneft-Noyabrskneftegaz, the largest subsidiary of Gazpromneft (former Sibneft, which was bought by Russian gas monopoly Gazprom). The company is accused of exceeding oil production quotas. The case against Sibneft-Noyabrskneftegaz joins a slew of high-profile accusations that have been made against various Russian oil companies. In general, however, the companies are accused of failing to meet licensing conditions and of underproducing. Not so with Sibneft. According to the information from the prosecutor's office, between 2001 and 2005 Sibneft-Noyabrskneftegaz earned over 20 billion rubles. Over the same period of time the company exceeded oil production quotas at a number of its deposits. The prosecutor's office has started three criminal cases against the enterprise, but Vremya novostei daily claims that nobody has been charged yet in relation to the case. The law envisages a relatively mild punishment for the crime of excess production: imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 rubles (about $18,000). Experts believe that the company will most likely be made to pay the fine, Echo of Moscow radio station reported on Thursday, Aug. 10. Gazpromneft, the company's current owner, said it has no plans to get involved in the case and promised that it will forward any questions to the company's former owners. Until October 2005 Noyabrskneftegaz belonged to Sibneft Oil Company, which was controlled by billionaire Roman Abramovich and his business partners. The prosecutor's office has not yet given the names of any suspects and did not say how long the investigation will take. The oil company may not even be fined, some sources say. Kommersant daily quoted Noyabrsk prosecutor's office as saying that the case may be closed if the company fully compensates the state for the losses incurred. Sibneft-Noyabrskneftegaz declined to comment on the accusations until the investigation is completed.

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