Police Seize Russian Environment Regulator's Document

Dow Jones Newswires

MOSCOW Oct 18, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Police on Wednesday seized accounting documents from the offices of Russia's environmental regulator Rosprirodnadzor, Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of the agency, told Dow Jones Newswires on Wednesday.

Mitvol - who has led the charge to pull a key environmental permit from Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) and has chastised Russian oil companies OAO Lukoil Holdings (LKOH.RS) and OAO Rosneft (ROSN.RS) - said he couldn't explain the reason for the document seizure.

Asked whether it might be linked to his recent campaign against major oil companies active in Russia, Mitvol said: "I don't think so."

The Russian Interior Ministry said the search was being conducted in connection with a criminal inquiry into the issuing of a license to develop the South Tambeyskoye gas field, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The press service of the Interior Ministry's Organized Crime Department told Interfax "the need has arisen as part of a criminal inquiry to seize documents that served as the basis for issuing a license. The South Tambeyskoye gas field is at issue.

"The main thing is that the inquiry is not being directed against Rosprirodnadzor itself," the press office said.

The South Tambeyskoye gas deposit in Russia's Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District has been the subject of a prolonged and murky dispute between Russian natural gas giant OAO Gazprom (GSPBEX.RS) and businessman Nikolai Bogachyov.

Russian newspaper Vedomosti has reported that Gazprom's banking arm, Gazprombank, agreed over the summer to take a majority stake in Yamal LNG, a company controlled by Bogachyov and which has the right to develop South Tambeyskoye.

No one at Gazprom or Gazprombank was immediately available for comment, and Bogachyov couldn't be reached for comment.

The South Tambeyskoye field holds about 1.2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and between 40 to 60 million metric tons of gas condensate.

Bogachyov had sought to develop the South Tambeyskoye field with the help of major foreign oil and gas companies, including Repsol YPF SA (REP), with an eye towards producing liquified natural gas for sale to North American markets.

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