Russia's Transneft should be checked for fraud: Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin advised on Wednesday that prosecutors look into allegations of multibillion dollar fraud in course of a key Trans-Siberian pipeline project.
A minority shareholder in Russia's Transneft oil pipeline monopoly, Alexei Navalny, published documents on his blog in November alleging four billion dollars in fraud in the course of building the East Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline.
"Concerning the case of the ESPO, everything needs to be checked," Putin said. "Even if a minority shareholder is unhappy with something, it needs to be checked," he told journalists Wednesday night.
"Let prosecutors check, let other controlling authorities check."
"But you cannot blatantly accuse anyone," Putin continued. " After all, we use presumption of innocence," he added.
Navalny said the documents came from the official Russian Audit Chamber, but its head Sergei Stepashin has said "there is no four-billion-dollar fraud" at Transneft, but has not made its documents publicly available.
The 5,000-kilometre-long pipeline connects Siberia's oil fields with the Far Eastern port of Kozmino and the first segment was launched last December with the goal of boosting Asian exports.
Transneft has refused to comment on Navalny's claims, though spokesman Igor Demin confirmed that the company did an internal check into spending on the project under previous management.
© 2010 AFP