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    SIBNEFT'S TAX DEBT SHRINKS

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    MOSCOW, March 4, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Tax Ministry said the Sibneft oil major owes some $700 million in back taxes, a ministry source told RIA Novosti. The Tax Ministry earlier said the company's tax debt made $1 billion.

    "The company owes some $700 million in unpaid taxes, not the $1 billion reported earlier," said a ministry official.

    Sibneft press secretary Aleksei Firsov insists the company has always observed tax discipline.

    "Regular audits, including the one conducted by the Russian Audit Chamber for the 2000-2001 period, revealed no violations," said Mr Firsov.

    On March 2, the Tax Ministry accused Sibneft of owing $1 billion in taxes for 2000-2001.

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