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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yukos Admits to Owning Stake in FIMACO

The Yukos oil company once owned a "symbolic" stake in the parent company of FIMACO, an offshore firm that managed hundreds of millions of dollars in currency reserves for Russia's Central Bank, but never had a say in running matters there, a Yukos spokesman said Wednesday.

Yukos is listed in the 1997 annual report of Eurobank - a Paris-based company that is 78 percent-owned by the Russian Central Bank - as a minority shareholder, with a tiny 0.015 percent stake. Eurobank, in turn, claims that it owns 100 percent of FIMACO.

"It was one share, it was fairly symbolic," Roman Artemyev, head of Yukos' public relations department, said in a telephone interview. He said Yukos had sold that share in 1998 and now owns no stake in Eurobank.

Asked how or why Yukos had obtained the tiny ownership stake in the Central Bank subsidiary, Artemyev said he was not sure of all of the details because the Yukos share was obtained before the oil company's 1995 privatization.

Former Central Bank deputy chairman Sergei Alexashenko said last week that oil majors Yukos and Rosneft, diamond giant Almazy Rossii-Sakha and other private companies owned about 22 percent of Eurobank, the Central Bank's Paris-based daughter bank.

Eurobank, in turn, has said that it owns FIMACO, a Channel Islands-registered company set up in 1993 with $1,000 in start-up capital that managed hard currency for the Central Bank.

FIMACO hit the news three weeks ago. Just before resigning, Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov sent a letter to parliament claiming that this previously obscure company had managed $50 billion of Russia's hard currency reserves over a five-year period, and had taken an unspecified commission.

Central Bank officials have criticized Skuratov's math and scolded him for revealing FIMACO, which they say was a useful tool to hide Russia's assets from litigious hostile creditors. Only sketchy details have been offered about how FIMACO was set up, who runs it and how it invested the money entrusted to it.

The 1997 Eurobank annual report's list of shareholders shows the Central Bank with 77.75 percent; Tsentrsoyuz with 9.21 percent; Promstroibank with 9.21 percent; GPVO Novoexport with 3.68 percent; Yukos, Rosneft and Almazy Rossii-Sakha each with 0.015 percent; and unspecified others holding 0.105 percent. Of those shareholders, the Central Bank, Almazy Rossii-Sakha, Rosneft and Yukos are also listed in the annual report as members of Eurobank's advisory board. The report says Alexashenko represented the Central Bank, but does not say who represented the other organizations.

The other names on the board were of individuals: Dmitry Tulin, president of Vneshtorgbank; Bernard Dupuy, president of the Eurobank advisory board; and Paul Rey, the board's vice president.

Even before unveiling FIMACO, Skuratov was saying he had opened criminal cases against unspecified Central Bank officials for, among other things, insider trading on Russian treasury bills and money laundering.

Skuratov's offensive against the bank comes as both houses of Russia's parliament discuss proposals to put tighter controls on the Central Bank, and FIMACO is at the heart of the debate. On Wednesday, influential Samara Governor Konstantin Titov added his voice to calls for changing the Central Bank law.

Specifically citing FIMACO, Titov called for legislating greater transparency and tighter controls on the bank's currency operations, Prime-Tass reported. At the same time, Titov scolded Skuratov for the "scandalous" way he made the allegations public.