- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

MOSCOW (AP) — The Tax Ministry increased its back-tax bill against the foundering Yukos oil giant by some $700 million, bringing total claims against Russia’s biggest oil producer to $7.4 billion, the company said yesterday.

The increase came in the amount the government claims Yukos owes for 2001.

According to the revised claims for 2001, Yukos dodged taxes through illegal onshore tax havens to the tune of $4 billion, Interfax reported the Tax Ministry’s claim as saying. Previously, the bill stood at $3.3 billion for 2001, the company said.

The 2001 claim must be upheld by a court decision before it can be enforced. Yukos already faces a $3.4 billion bill for 2000, of which the company has paid $2 billion.

Analysts expect more claims to follow, with the final bill for the 2000 to 2003 period expected to grow to more than $10 billion.

“It is getting difficult to surprise Yukos with new and baseless tax demands,” said Yukos spokesman Hugo Erikssen, confirming that the company received the revised claim yesterday.

The latest bad news came just one day after Yukos reported that a court had frozen accounts at its subsidiaries, a move it said would effectively “paralyze” the company’s operations.

However, Yukos’ core production unit, Yuganskneftegaz, said Thursday that its operations had not been affected, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Analysts didn’t express surprise at the latest blow to hit Yukos.

“They’re looking for anything they can pile on — its not even news any more,” said Ron Smith, an oil and gas analyst with the Renaissance Capital investment bank. “I’m just waiting for this thing to end.”

The tax bills are part of a web of legal actions against Yukos and its jailed billionaire owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, that observers see as Kremlin-orchestrated punishment for his growing clout and forays into politics.

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