Lithuania wants more information on Yukos from Moscow authorities

  • 2005-08-31
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - The government has asked for additional documents from Russia before deciding whether to honor the latter's request to suspend any ownership change involving Yukos-owned shares of Mazeikiu Nafta.

The Justice Ministry stated that it needed the documents in order to substantiate the request from the Russian government, which has been slowly dismantling Yukos over the past two years.

"We have asked our Russian colleagues to provide copies of court decisions and bailiff orders in the case of Yukos' tax claims. We need these documents in accordance with the bilateral legal assistance agreement," Gintaras Svedas, deputy justice minister, told the Baltic News Service.

A final decision on granting Russia's Justice Ministry legal assistance would depend on the requested documents and their content, he added.

Lithuania received the official request from Russia on July 19. On Aug. 29, the Justice Ministry sent its Russian counterpart a letter explaining that the ministry could not restrict any transactions with Mazeikiu Nafta shares due to existing bilateral agreements and legislation.

The current bilateral agreement on mutual legal assistance does not prescribe any time limits for fulfilling legal assistance requests, Lithuanian ministerial experts said.

Last week Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas admitted that claims belonging to Yukos shareholders and creditors on the company's foreign assets, including Mazeikiu Nafta, might affect a planned change of ownership at the refinery and oil export terminal.

The government is currently trying to facilitate a change in ownership in order to ensure stable crude supplies to the refinery, which is the country's largest taxpayer.

A 53.7 percent stake in the complex is currently controlled by Yukos International UK BV, a Dutch-registered Yukos subsidiary, and Moscow wants to prevent the asset from changing hands without first issuing its claims. Lithuania owns a 40.6 percent stake.

Following the seizure of Yukos' assets in Russia, a syndicate of Western banks led by France's Societe Generale has demanded that Yukos Finance B.V. pay back debts in excess of $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Gazprombank and Jurimex, an Austria-registered company, have reportedly divested their stakes in Baltic Holding, a firm that had been set up to acquire the Yukos-owned stake in Mazeikiu Nafta. The new owner, Petrochemical Holding, is reportedly interested in cooperating with the refinery in the manufacturing of polypropylene.

Specifically, Petrochemical Holding needs polypropylene for its Nemuno Banga Group, a greenfield investment project that upon completion will include two plastic raw-material plants in the free economic zone of Klaipeda.

"We would need large quantities of this product, and we are keenly interested in cooperation with the Lithuanian oil refinery. The refinery could produce polypropylene and supply it to us. We could establish a joint venture and joint manufacturing of that product. We have a lot of possibilities to consider," Klaus Volker Frenzel, chairman of Nemuno Banga Group and Petrochemical Holding's director, was quoted as saying.

Mazeikiu Nafta has been mulling over whether to begin manufacturing polypropylene. The refinery is assessing the new business and how to arrange a $200 million loan to build a polypropylene manufacturing unit.