Shareholder Wins Ruling Against Transneft Over Charity Funds

Transneft minority shareholder Alexei Navalny has won a court ruling forcing the police to conduct a check into the beneficiaries of the state-owned oil pipeline operator's billions of rubles in charity donations.

Navalny, a lawyer and activist shareholder, has been trying for two years to find out who receives Transneft's enormous contributions to charity. From 2005 to 2008, the company donated nearly 15 billion rubles ($494 million), but it does not disclose the recipients.

His first success was a decision Tuesday from Moscow's Tagansky District Court, which ruled that the police did not conduct a check into Transneft, despite Navalny's complaint, and that police investigator Ilya Samotayev had been "illegally inactive."

A copy of the ruling was obtained by Vedomosti.

Navalny did not go straight to the police. In 2008, he filed lawsuits against Transneft in the Moscow arbitration courts, which he lost. The company was able to prove that it is not required to disclose the recipients of its donations. Navalny then asked the Interior Ministry to conduct a check.

The check was assigned to investigators at the Moscow city police's department for the Central Administrative District, and specifically to Samotayev. In the fall of 2008, he twice signed orders refusing to open a criminal case, in which he explained that Transneft did not answer his requests for information and that its management did not show up for questioning.

Police even went once to Transneft's office, but they were unable to question the management because "the possibility did not arise." Samotayev then decided that no crime had been committed at the time the check was conducted.

The refusals to open a criminal case were overturned by prosecutors in the Central Administrative District, and the materials were returned to investigators for an additional check, Navalny said, but then all of the documents were lost.

That's when he went to court to file a complaint against Samotayev.

If he does not appeal the ruling, then Samotayev will be forced to get from Transneft the materials he needs to file an explanation for his ruling on the complaint, said Vladimir Pletnev, a partner at law firm Yustina.

Vedomosti was unable to reach Samotayev for comment. A spokesperson for the police in Moscow's Central Administrative District said Navalny's complaint had been considered and that it was decided not to open a criminal case. A new check will now be conducted, the spokesperson said.

Transneft spokesman Igor Dyomin declined to speak with Vedomosti.

The company has never disclosed details of its charitable giving, which it says is funded by part of the money it receives from selling leftover oil in its pipeline system. But a unit of state monopoly Sibnefteprovod once declared in 2007 that it spent more than 1.5 billion rubles on charity, including donations to Kreml-9, a foundation that provides assistance to the federal agencies providing state security.

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