Officers raid Russian oil giant Yukos

July 04, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW - The headquarters of embattled Russian oil giant Yukos were raided yesterday by government officers, a day after the company said it was on the brink of financial ruin.

Police officers from the Russian Interior Ministry and from the federal prosecutor's office surrounded the 20-story building in the southwestern district of the city yesterday afternoon, and government investigators were seen entering and leaving it. They refused to comment to reporters. Russian news agencies reported that officials with the prosecutor's office said prosecutors were to take inventory of Yukos' assets.

However, an official at Yukos said he believed that the government was looking for evidence to bolster its case against the company's jailed founder, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky. Investigators were seizing documents and computer network servers, a Yukos employee told the Interfax news agency. The Yukos official said the seizure of computer servers "could interfere" with what he called "industrial activities of the company," including production and transportation of oil at subsidiaries.

The search came after a series of actions by law enforcement agencies against Yukos last week. In recent days, a court ruled that Yukos would have to pay a $3.4 billion back-tax claim for 2000. The Russian Tax Ministry has accused Yukos of evading taxes by channeling money through offshore companies. But the tax bill is widely seen as part of a larger Kremlin-backed campaign against Yukos and Khodorkovsky, who faces separate criminal charges.

Yukos has said the tax claims would bankrupt the company. The company's assets have been frozen by an earlier court ruling.

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