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    CONFISCATION OF OIL AND GAS EXCESS PROFITS NOT TO EXCEED $2-3 BLN

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    MOSCOW, February 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Natalia Byrkina) - Confiscation of excess profits from the oil and gas sector will not exceed $2-3 billion, Russian Economic Development Minister German Gref said on Wednesday when speaking at the 5th annual investment conference held by the US Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

    "We are not going to confiscate dozens of billions of dollars", he pointed out.

    According to him, at present the government is debating changes of the severance tax rate, "but they are not radical". The decision will be taken in February, he added.

    The minister was referring to confiscation of excess profits from oil sales at a price of over $25 per barrel.

    When the law on severance tax was adopted, "nobody could imagine that such high oil prices will sustain for so long," Gref explained.

    As to other taxes, the minister assured the forum's participants that the tax burden would be lowered by 1 percent annually, as it was planned for a mid-term perspective.

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