Warrant issued for missing oil tycoon

Police are searching for the former head of Russneft, Mikhail Gutseriev, after a Moscow court ordered that he be taken into custody. The Russian oil billionaire is wanted on charges of illegal business activities and tax evasion.

An arrest warrant was issued when Gutseriev allegedly broke his promise to stay in Moscow while he was being investigated. His present whereabouts are unknown but an unidentified official from the Interior Ministry says he could have fled the country. 

“An investigator from the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigation Committee has filed a request at the Tverskoy Court of Moscow to change Gutseriev’s measure of restraint from a written pledge not to leave the city to being taken into custody. Having reviewed all the materials, the judge of the Tverskoy Court has granted the request and issued an arrest warrant for Mikhail Gutseriev,” said Anna Usachyova, press secretary of the Moscow City Court.

Gutseriyev's 21-year-old son Chingizkhan died in a car accident last week. He was buried in the family's native region of North Ossetia in a Muslim ceremony and Kommersant newspaper reported Mikhail Gutseriyev attended it.

RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle says Mr Gutseriev’s arrest warrant was not a big surprise to him. 

“The authorities have made it clear that they will not tolerate things like back taxes not being paid. Besides, Mr Gutseriev wasn’t a big friend of people in the oil field, which is very competitive, and you have to have local partners as well. For the last six weeks trouble has been on the way,” Peter Lavelle noted.

Aleksey Makarkin from the Centre for Political Technologies says that Russneft is likely to lose the case with Russia's tax authorities.

“The timing of the arrest warrant issued by the Moscow Tverskoy court to Mikhail Gutseriev is accidental. It could have happened yesterday. His conflict with the state has entered a critical stage. What happened? At the first stage of the case Gutseriev had two options: the first one was to sell his company, the second was to fight for his company. He decided to fight. What is in store for Gutseriev? He will join the group of exiled oligarchs. He is a businessman with political ambitions: he was a deputy chairman of Russia's Parliament. The destiny of the company will follow the court scenario: the tax authorities will file a suit against Russneft which will result in the seizure of the company's shares. The tax authorities will win the case and Russneft's shares will be confiscated. The company has no future. As for Gutseriev, I don't think he'll be extradited to Russia,” Aleksey Makarkin said.

Russneft is one of Russia's ten biggest oil companies. In July a Moscow court ordered the seizure of its assets. The company appealed the decision, which is to due to be heard on September 5.

According to Forbes magazine, Gutseriev has a fortune of $US 3 BLN. He stepped down as the company's president on July 30.  In a statement issued on the company’s website, he said the decision had been made under pressure.   Days later he retracted the words, saying it was strictly a business decision.

The Western media have called him a ‘second Khodorkovsky’, referring to the former head of the Yukos oil company who is now serving a jail sentence for tax evasion. 

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