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Moscow court to hear ex-Yukos unit claim for damages

MOSCOW, August 10 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow Arbitration Court will resume hearings Thursday on a claim for damages from an ex-Yukos unit sold in a December 2004 auction to help pay the parent company's massive tax bills.

Yuganskneftegaz, now owned by largely state-owned Rosneft Oil Company, lodged the suit in March 2005, claiming more than 304 billion rubles ($11.4 bln) in damages, including 163 bln rubles ($6.1 bln) for losses sustained as a result of Yukos's lower transfer pricing schemes in oil deals in 1999-2003. Later, a court increased this amount to 226 bln rubles ($8.46 bln).

Yugansk is seeking the remainder of the sum, 141 bln rubles ($5.28 bln), to compensate for losses arising from the settlement of tax arrears.

Yukos, once Russia's biggest oil company, was declared bankrupt on August 1 after three-year litigation with tax authorities. The group now faces a total of $18.2 bln in claims from creditors, including Yugansk ($4.07 bln), the Federal Tax Service ($13.1 bln), Rosneft ($482 mln) and more than 20 other companies.

An inquiry was opened August 8 into alleged fraud during Yukos bankruptcy procedures. The Prosecutor General's Office said Yukos had secured a loan worth over $4.5 bln from Yukos Capital SARL, a Luxembourg-based subsidiary and major creditor, through affiliated legal entities. It said ex-Yukos officials had masterminded a scheme to sell crude oil through trading companies Fargoil and Ratibor under their control, acting both as fictitious owners and buyers.

Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted for fraud in May 2005.

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