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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Menatep Sells the Firm That Led to Its Demise

Itar-TassApatit, in the Far North, accounts for most of the fertilizer produced in Russia.
Group Menatep has sold 50 percent of the holding company that owns Apatit, the fertilizer company that former Yukos executives Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev are charged with fraudulently buying from the government in a 1994 privatization deal, Vedomosti reported Wednesday.

Menatep sold the stake in the Fosagro chemicals holding to managers because the Russian investment climate was antagonistic toward the group, the business daily reported, citing Menatep director Tim Osborne.

Menatep also plans to sell its telecommunications assets, Osborne said.

Khodorkovsky transferred his 60 percent stake in Menatep to business partner Leonid Nevzlin on Dec. 19, the same day the state sold Yukos' main production unit, Yuganskneftegaz.

Nevzlin left Russia to live in Israel after an arrest warrant was issued for him. Forbes last year estimated Khodorkovsky was Russia's richest man with a $15 billion fortune.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are charged with fraud, in part linked to the 1994 purchase of Apatit, and tax evasion.

Nevzlin said the remaining owners of Yukos still plan to sue the Russian government for damages.

Nevzlin told Vedomosti he held Russian authorities fully responsible for hounding what was the country's largest oil exporter before it was pursued through the courts and bombarded with demands for back taxes totaling $27 billion.

"As shareholders, we intend to demand compensation for damages in all available international courts in Europe and America," Nevzlin said.

"And the damages are not inconsiderable because, as a result of the sale of Yuganskneftegaz, Yukos lost a large part of its value," said Nevzlin, who is sought by the Russian authorities, who are investigating his possible involvement in a contract killing.

Yugansk was acquired by state oil company Rosneft last month from a shadowy company called Baikal Finance Group, which lodged the winning $9.4 billion bid at the December auction.

Nevzlin said he feared there could be more trouble ahead for Yukos, even shorn of its prize assets. "As far as we understand, the tax claims against the company are not over and there is every reason to foresee worse to come," said Nevzlin.

Nevzlin took a swipe at unnamed emissaries who had approached Yukos in recent months in an apparent effort to find a negotiated solution to the affair. "There were people who simply wanted to exploit the situation and earn money from this by presenting themselves as mediators," he added.

(Reuters, Bloomberg, MT)