Yukos shareholders open to talks with Russia over $50 bn award

29th July 2014, Comments 0 comments

Former Yukos shareholders said Tuesday they were prepared to negotiate with Russia after an international court awarded them $50 billion (37 billion euros) of compensation over the seizure of the defunct oil giant.

The arbitration court in The Hague ruled on Monday that Moscow had forced Yukos -- once owned by jailed Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- into bankruptcy with outsized tax claims before selling its assets to state-owned firms.

But with further legal battles looming to recoup compensation from a Russian government that has already been hit by international sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, main shareholder GML Ltd said they were ready for talks.

"GML has always and continues to be open to negotiations with the Russian Federation," the spokesman told AFP.

Shareholders had made several attempts to negotiate in recent years "but to no avail," the spokesman added.

"They (the shareholders) would be open to constructive dialogue and they think it would be a useful way forward at this point."

Lawyers for the shareholders warned on Monday they could try to seize international assets of state-owned Rosneft, which bought up most of Yukos operations after its breakup, if they could prove it was the "alter ego of the state".

Russia was ordered to pay compensation to shareholders to subsidiaries of Gibraltar-based Group Menatep, through which Khodorkovsky ran Yukos.

The group exists today as holding company GML, although Khodorkovsky is no longer involved and is not a party to the compensation claim.

Yukos was once Russia's biggest oil company but was broken up after Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, shortly after President Vladimir Putin warned Russia's growing class of oligarchs against meddling in politics.

It was sold off in opaque auctions between 2004 and 2006. Rosneft was then a small player but today stands as the world's biggest listed oil company by production volume.

© 2014 AFP

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