Deputy Energy Minister Ivan Materov believes that from the legal standpoint it is going to be hard to revoke mineral licenses of YUKOS's major production unit.
"It will take a very complicated legal procedure to revoke Yuganskneftegaz mineral licenses because the company may file an appeal at the court in any case, " the deputy minister told journalists.
Last week, the Mineral License Committee under the RF Nature Ministry decided to sent prior notices about possible early revocation of Yuganskneftegaz mineral licenses for 3 extraction sites.
In addition, orders to correct violations were issued on two more sites. Notices and orders are valid for 6 months. During this period, Yuganskneftegaz must eliminate all violations.
At the previous meeting, the RF Nature Ministry ordered Yuganskneftegaz to eliminate all tax violations on 21 licenses within 3 month. According to RF Nature Minister Yuri Trutnev, total oil reserves under these licenses constitutes 1.1 billion tons.
The investigation of Yuganskneftegaz is conducted on request by the tax authorities. The Federal Tax Service approached the RF Nature Ministry with a suggestion to revoke Yuganskneftegaz oil licenses. Tax authorities explain their actions by the fact that the company owes the state 3.6 billion rubles in taxes ($1 equals 28.76 rubles). Yuganskneftegaz management puts the blame for the delay in tax payments on the authorities stating the fact that the company's accounts have been arrested.
According to Ivan Materov, "the auction on the sale of Yuganskneftegaz must be as transparent as possible and involved both Russian and foreign companies." He did not disregard the possibility of Gazprom buying Yuganskneftegaz.
"The buyer can be either a large Russian company or a foreign company of world renown. Gazprom has enough assets to become one of those," Mr. Materov said.
He underlined that the returns from the auction, if it ever happens, must go to the state budget because "it is people's money, the money of our taxpayers."
(It is known that earlier the RF Ministry of Justice announced the starting price for the controlling bloc of Yuganskneftegaz shares -- $4 billion. This sum has been determined through a series of complicated manipulations allegedly on the basis of computations conducted by an independent auditor - Drezden-based DrKW bank. Right after the announcement, the auditor (in order to protect its reputation) published a comprehensive report indicating that according to its calculations Yuganskneftegaz is worth anywhere from $18.6 billion to $21.1 billion and even after the payment of possible debt and demanded tax returns that haven't been proved yet, would be worth not less than $14.7-17.3 billion. Moreover, taking into account revised data on proven oil deposits, which need confirmation, the value of the company might go up to $19.8-24.8 billion. The Justice ministry chose to ignore the new data, but accepted the demands not proven yet by the court and as a result established the value at $10.4 billion. After that it eagerly offered to sell the company, which in legal terms already belongs to the state as a defendant on tax fraud charges, for a meager sum of $4 billion.