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    ROSNEFT REFUTES ACCUSATIONS OF TAX DODGING

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    MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) - JSC Rosneft considers the tax claims of the Audit Chamber voiced yesterday by auditor Mikhail Beskhmelnitsyn ungrounded.

    "Rosneft has never used any schemes to dodge taxes," representative of the company's press service Dmitry Panteleyev told RIA Novosti on Friday. "Thus we consider the Audit Chamber's claims ungrounded".

    On Thursday Beskhmelnitsyn spoke at a conference of Russian audit bodies and announced that Rosneft paid two times less taxes per each ton of oil produced in the Republic of Komi (North Russia) than other companies.

    "Rosneft has been fulfilling all its tax liabilities to the budget and will continue doing so," Panteleyev said.

    Simultaneously he called for "assessing the company's tax policy in general". Last year Rosneft paid the profit tax at an effective tax rate of 36 percent, which is "one of the highest figures in the industry", the company's representative maintains.

    Beskhmelnitsyn reported that during February's audit trip to the Republic of Komi the auditors had found out a significant difference in tax payment between private and state companies. For example, Lukoil pays 150 roubles [$1 equals approximately 30 roubles] per each produced ton of oil, while state-owned Rosneft pays two times less. "Where do they pay the other half of the tax and do they pay it at all? We will have to find the answer," the auditor emphasized.

    He promised that in 2004 the Audit Chamber would analyze the tariff policy of natural monopolies.

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