- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Tax Ministry yesterday dealt a new blow to beleaguered oil giant Yukos, accusing it of failing to pay $3.3 billion in back taxes, fines and other penalties.

The ministry said Yukos had dodged taxes by setting up a network of affiliated companies that claimed unlawful tax breaks, according to an official statement carried by the Interfax news agency.

It said that it had reached the conclusion after checking Yukos’s tax records for 2000.

Tax Ministry officials wouldn’t immediately comment on the report.

Earlier this month, Interfax cited a letter from a deputy tax minister claiming that Yukos’s debt arrears amounted to more than $5 billion. That report was never confirmed by the Tax Ministry.

Yukos executives have insisted that the company has paid all taxes due.

Yukos has been the target of a far-ranging government probe that reached a peak with the Oct. 25 arrest of its ex-chief, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, on charges of tax evasion and fraud and the subsequent freezing of about 40 percent of the company’s shares.

Mr. Khodorkovsky has remained in custody since his arrest. A court last week ordered his pretrial detention to be extended until March 25.

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