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RIA Novosti: Russian police seize documents from environment watchdog

Russian Police

15:12 | 18/ 10/ 2006

MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti) – Police are seizing documents from Russia’s Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources as part of an ongoing investigation that has nothing to do with the environmental watchdog, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

“This is part of a criminal case against a group of persons who attempted to [illegally] acquire a stake in Gazprombank-Investa and in this way to reduce the company’s share in Tambeineftegaz, which holds a license to develop the South Tambei [gas condensate] field,” a police spokesman said.

He said investigators needed a number of documents to confirm that the license was granted legally.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the environmental watchdog said earlier Wednesday: “Documents are being confiscated. This is happening for the first time in the history of the service. Documents from the accounting office are being confiscated by members of the Interior Ministry’s anti-organized crime department.”

But he said the raid was in line with an investigation that has nothing to do with the service.

The service has been conducting an official probe into the Sakhalin II major oil and gas project, which is led by Royal Dutch Shell. Mitvol, who is leading the investigation, said his expert group has found numerous violations by project operator Sakhalin Energy of conditions set out in the project’s feasibility study, including the illegal routing of an oil pipeline through the territory of a national preservation area and environmental damage in Aniva Bay.

He criticized Sakhalin Energy for resorting to political blackmail instead of attempting to correct its mistakes. “What happened was quite a surprise for Sakhalin Energy,” he said. “And I have heard of nothing being done except resorting to political pressure from the company’s friends inside the country, and no engineering solutions have been found.”

The service filed a suit pressing the Natural Resources Ministry to enforce its annulment of the 2003 Sakhalin Environmental Expert Review, a move which can suspend the project indefinitely and put in jeopardy contracted deliveries to Japan, South Korea and the United States, due to start in 2008.

But a Moscow district court refused to consider the agency’s lawsuit.

Sakhalin Energy said prior to the revocation of the environmental approval that allegations of environmental violations were “deeply misleading,” and were “based on a procedural argument relating to the internal workings of Natural Resources Ministry agencies.”

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