Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ulyukayev charged with $2m bribe

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Rus­sia’s Econ­omy Min­is­ter Alexei Ulyukayev has been ac­cused of tak­ing a bribe to en­dorse a state takeover.

Rus­sia’s main anti-cor­rup­tion body, the In­ves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee, said he re­ceived a pay­ment of $2m.

Mr Ulyukayev is the high­es­trank­ing Rus­sian of­fi­cial held since the 1991 coup at­tempt in what was then the USSR.

The SK said he had “threat­ened” to cre­ate ob­sta­cles for Ros­neft’s op­er­a­tions when it took a 50% stake in an­other state oil com­pany, Bash­neft.

Ac­cord­ing to SK spokes­woman Svet­lana Pe­trenko, “Ulyukayev was caught red­handed”, re­ceiv­ing a $2m bribe on 14 Novem­ber for giv­ing a favourable as­sess­ment of the Ros­neft deal.

The ap­par­ent sting op­er­a­tion came after months of elec­tronic sur­veil­lance, in­clud­ing phone-tap­ping, of­fi­cials said.

The ar­rest was big news on Rus­sia’s state-run TV chan­nels, un­der the head­line “Bat­tle against cor­rup­tion”.

If found guilty he could face a prison sen­tence of be­tween eight and 15 years.

Mr Ulyukayev, 60, was ap­pointed econ­omy min­is­ter in 2013. An eco­nomic lib­eral in the 1990s, he be­came deputy chair­man of Rus­sia’s cen­tral bank in 2004.

It was only in Oc­to­ber that Ros­neft, an oil gi­ant con­trolled by the Rus­sian govern­ment, bought 50% of Bash­neft for 330bn rou­bles ($5bn). Bash­neft it­self was one of Rus­sia’s largest state oil com­pa­nies.

Rus­sia is in the mid­dle of an eco­nomic slump, largely be­cause of the fall in crude oil prices, and had lined up sev­eral state com­pa­nies for pri­vati­sa­tion to re­plen­ish state cof­fers.

But the sell-off of Bash­neft had been shelved in Au­gust, re­port­edly by the Krem­lin be­cause of a dis­pute over who would take it over.

The con­tro­ver­sial pri­vati­sa­tion re­turned to the agenda early last month, ap­par­ently be­cause of the govern­ment’s need to raise money. Mr Ulyukayev promised last month that the en­tire sum paid by Ros­neft would go to the Rus­sian bud­get.

Eco­nomic lib­er­als had fiercely op­posed the idea of a state-owned com­pany ac­quir­ing the govern­ment’s share in an­other state oil firm. It was seen as a vic­tory for Ros­neft’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Igor Sechin, who has long been a close ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

The pres­i­dent said last month that he had been “rather sur­prised” by the govern­ment’s ear­lier po­si­tion to de­lay the deal as Ros­neft was “strictly speak­ing” not a state firm as part of it was owned by BP.

A Ros­neft spokesper­son told the Tass news agency it ac­quired the Bash­neft stake “in ac­cor­dance with Rus­sian law, on the ba­sis of the best com­mer­cial of­fer made to the op­er­at­ing bank”. Mikhail Leon­tyev told Rus­sian TV later that “there can­not be any threat of can­celling the deal”.

Bash­neft was it­self taken over con­tro­ver­sially by the Rus­sian state when its owner Vladimir Yev­tushenkov was ar­rested. Charges against him were later dropped.

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