Yukos says Germany aided Kremlin over key asset sale

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The Independent Online

Yukos, the stricken Russian oil group, has accused the German government of complicity in the appropriation of its main operating unit Yuganskneftegaz.

Robert Amsterdam, the lawyer who represents the main shareholder of Yukos, Menatep, and its imprisoned former chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, alleged yesterday that Deutsche Bank was acting as a "proxy" for the German state over the affair. The Kremlin forced Yukos to sell the Yugansk unit.

Yukos filed for bankruptcy protection in the US last month, which meant that Western banks pulled out of a deal to finance a planned $10bn (£5.3bn) bid by the Russian state-controlled energy group Gazprom for Yugansk. This week Deutsche Bank, one of the banks that had lined up to back Gazprom, put a motion before the US courts to dismiss the bankruptcy protection which greatly complicated the Kremlin's plans for Yugansk.

Mr Amsterdam insisted Deutsche Bank was acting on behalf of the German state and attributed the move to the close relationship between the Russian president Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder, the German leader. He said Germany was using its good name in international financial circles to help Russia.

"This is a case of reputation laundering. Schröder is behind this. It is a big scandal," Mr Amsterdam said.

The German Chancellor is known to be close to Mr Putin. Earlier this year Mr Putin reportedly helped Mr Schröder adopt a Russian orphan from St Petersburg, the Russian leader's hometown. No one at the German Foreign Ministry was available for comment yesterday.

Due to Yukos' US bankruptcy filing, Gazprom did not bid for Yugansk at an auction held on 19 December. Instead, a mysterious entity called Baikal Finance won the day. Subsequently, Rosneft, a state-owned oil group, said it would buy Baikal; then Gazprom announced it would buy Rosneft.

The allegation of German state involvement was made as the forced takeover of Yugansk was dramatically implemented in Russia. A Rosneft delegation escorted by bailiffs arrived at Yugansk's Siberian headquarters in Nefteyugansk yesterday and declared that Rosneft had already fully paid the state $9.4bn for the unit. The delegation was headed by Nikolai Borisenko, Rosneft's first vice-president, a Yukos official said. The head of Rosneft's Purneftegaz division, Vladimir Bulba, was introduced to Yugansk's staff as their new boss.

The Yukos official said: "Rosneft claims they have fully paid for Yugansk via MDM bank, have shown us some documents and want to hold an extraordinary general meeting today after registering title of ownership."

The ultimate source of funding for the purchase of Yugansk remains a mystery. Analysts said it was obvious that Rosneft - with debts of $4.4bn - would have needed outside funding.

Also unclear is who will ultimately end up owning Yugansk.

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