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AFX Europe (Focus): Lukoil faces sweeping tax checks by Russian environment agency UPDATE

Published: Oct 16, 2006

MOSCOW (AFX) – Russia’s environmental monitoring agency called for tax checks on all licences owned by Lukoil, the country’s biggest oil producer, a senior official told Agence France-Presse.

“We are interested in their payments. We have information that they are not paying,” said Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the powerful agency, known by its Russian name Rosprirodnadzor.

Mitvol said that documents had been sent today with a formal request to Russia’s federal tax service for information on payments made by Lukoil on the 398 licences it owns in Russia.

A spokesman said the request concerned payments made in the form of licence fees and mineral extraction taxes.

“The information is essential to continue a comprehensive check of the firms that are part of this oil company,” Russia’s natural resources ministry said in a statement.

Last Friday, the natural resources ministry said it planned to strip Lukoil, which is privately owned, of 19 licences for alleged violations, mainly linked to the length of time taken to carry out geological surveys and drilling work.

Mitvol has led a recent campaign against a consortium of foreign companies headed up by Royal Dutch Shell for supposed environmental violations at Sakhalin-2, a massive oil and gas project off Russia’s Pacific coast.

The campaign was seen by critics and industry analysts as part of a Kremlin drive to establish greater control over the country’s energy sector and facilitate the entry of state gas monopoly Gazprom into the project.

But Mitvol and other Russian officials have forcefully rejected these claims, saying their action was in line with the assessments of international ecological groups. [email protected] afp/cmr

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