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© RIA Novosti. Alexey Panov

Finger of suspicion points at Russia's Transneft

by at 23/12/2010 16:33


Oil giant Transneft is under the spotlight for fraud among the upper echelons, only a month after the shadow of suspicion last hovered.

The Investigative Committee raided offices and seized documents on Wednesday, as part of a probe into criminal dealings by so far unnamed ex-senior managers. They are suspected of stealing 2.6 billion roubles ($85 million).

Part of the case is focusing on alleged thefts while the company was laying 245 thousand kilometres of communication wires for the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline (ESPO), but results threw up details of other crimes as well. Yesterday’s seizure was to verify these other thefts, Kommersant reported.


Bank under fire

Officers raided the offices of Stroikreditbank in elite Krasnaya Presnya district and unknown destination in elitny Landshaft village, the home of bank’s former owner Andrei Gorbatsky.

Transneft executives are suspected to have bought I P Set, a smaller company which won the tender to lay the cables for ESPO and is supposed to have deposited the funds at Stroikreditbank.

“The former owner and director of Stroikredit bank is currently under investigation for involvement in theft,” Irina Dudukina, Investigative Committee press-secretary told Kommersant.

Gorbatsky was part of the inner-circle of Semyon Weinstock, ex-president of Transneft. During the 1990s he worked for Weinstock at Lukoil, top.rbc.ru reported

Charges for fraud on a large scale by a group, by prior arrangement, were originally leveled by Nikolai Tokarev, Transneft’s current director and president. But the criminal charges do not name any particular perpetrator.

Neither Weinstock nor Gorbatsky were available for comment, “We are glad that an investigation is under way and hope for the return our money,” Transneft’s press-service told Kommersant.


Slow burner

The case has been brewing for a year and investigators say it has nothing to do with Alexei Navalny’s recent accusations of embezzlement, over which the Audit Chamber recently cleared Transneft managers of defrauding $4 billion dollars.


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