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The Wall Street Journal: Russia’s Mitvol Denies Claiming Shell Tried To Bribe Him

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

MOSCOW (Dow Jones)–Russian environmental regulator Oleg Mitvol Thursday denied a report in a Russian tabloid daily citing him as claiming that Royal Dutch Shell Group (RDSA) tried to bribe him.

A report in the daily “Tvoy Den” cited him as claiming that Shell offered $50 million to drop environmental investigations that appeared to play a key part in the eventual transfer of control of the $20-billion Sakhalin-2 project to OAO Gazprom (GAZP.RS) at the end of last year.

In a statement distributed by the Natural Resource Ministry, Mitvol said that he had been approached by “intermediaries” with a request to settle various issues raised in the course of his agency’s inspections of the Sakhalin-2 project, and that he didn’t know whose interests they represented.

The statement said Mitvol is “convinced that Shell didn’t intend to give bribes to any of the executives in federal government bodies.”

“But, at the same time, various business interests indirectly representing the business interests of Shell may have been pursuing their own goals -different from Shell’s -including during the period on the eve of talks between the operator of the Sakhalin-2 project and Gazprom,” the statement said.

A Shell spokeswoman said that the company “refutes the claim made by the newspaper that Shell or its representatives attempted to bribe Russian government officials in the course of inspections of the Sakhalin-2 project.”

“This statement is completely groundless,” she added.

The newspaper -which as a rule concentrates more on celebrity and human interest stories -said on its Web site that it stood by its story and congratulated Mitvol on being a rare example of a Russian official capable of resisting foreign bribes. It did not appear to have asked Shell to comment on the allegation.

To substantiate its version of the conversation, the paper posted a recording of the conversation between Mitvol and its reporter on its Web site.

The conversation begins with Mitvol joking that he doesn’t have enough money with which to further his wife Lyudmila’s career as a pop-singer by paying radio stations to give her airtime.

“If we had agreed with Shell over Sakhalin that time, then we could probably have turned the international charts on their heads, too,” the voice jokes.

Asked how much ‘they’ offered, the voice responds “fifty”, without specifying further. ‘Tvoy Den’ interpreted this as meaning $50 million.

The voice goes on to claim that the same people offered the head of the Ministry’s press service, Rinat Gizatulin, a job at a monthly salary of $30,000, with the rights to manage an annual budget of over $1 million, but that he refused.

 Newspaper Web site: http://www.tden.ru

Ministry Web site: http://www.mnr.gov.ru

 -By Geoffrey T. Smith, Dow Jones Newswires (+7 495) 974 8055; [email protected]

 August 9, 2007 1:08 p.m.

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