Ulyukaev prevented Rosneft from purchasing Bashneft to extort bribe
Prosecutors’ tactic has become obvious now that two prosecution witnesses have been questioned in court in the framework of former Russian Minister of Economic Development Aleksey Ulyukaev’s case.
Russian Minister of Economic Development Aleksey Ulyukaev looked for ways to exclude Rosneft from the Bashneft privatization.
This seems to be the prosecutors’ tactic judging from the witness testimony in Ulyukaev’s case, according to Kommersant. Ulyukaev was accused of extorting and taking a $2-million bribe from Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin.
May we remind you that the two witnesses – Rosneft Investors Department Head Andrey Baranov and Ministry Corporate Management Department Oksana Tarasenko – were questioned in the Zamoskvoretsky District Court (Moscow) yesterday. There are thirty prosecution witnesses in total.
Rosneft management got interested in buying the Bashneft majority stock in the fall of 2016, according to the Rosneft representative. Rosneft understood the 20% of its own stock that belonged by the state would be sold for as much as possible, according to Baranov. Rosneft planned on increasing the company’s capitalization by purchasing the stock of one of the biggest Russian oil-and-gas companies, according to an explanation the Rosneft Investment Policy Department Head gave to the court. This is the viewpoint stated in the Rosneft CEO’s letter to the Russian President on July 21.
Andrey Baranov (in the middle)
However, the Rosneft management was "discouraged" by Ulyukaev’s "strong statement" regarding Rosneft’s inability to buy the Bashneft stock made during his official visit to Laos on August 8, according to Baranov.
The Bashneft privatization was suspended despite the Ministry "not having legitimate reasons for refusing the right of ownership," since the stock was to be bought without use of public and loan money, according to the witness. At the same time, the Ministry did not send Rosneft official notices. Aleksey Ulyukaev looked for various excuses to exclude Rosneft from the Bashneft privatization, Baranov thinks.
Vice PM Arkady Dvorkovich asked the agency who potential Bashneft stock buyers were on July 29, 2016, according to another witness, former Ulyukaev’s subordinate Oksana Tarasenko. No limitations were imposed on Rosneft after that during a meeting attended by VTB Capital representatives. VTB Capital was the advisor for the transaction. However, Ulyukaev claimed otherwise several days later. Tarasenko said this surprised her a lot.
The Russian Investigative Committee was not satisfied with Tarasenko’s court testimony. That is why the testimony she gave during the investigation was attached to the case instead. It is worth noting that she had previously said Ulyukaev personally deleted several key points from a report she prepared for the government, including a line saying Rosneft participating in the transaction "stimulates the company’s competitiveness" and would help sell the Bashneft stock for the highest price possible.
Questioning of the prosecution witnesses suggested the former Minister was able to prevent Rosneft from competing for the Bashneft stock and threatened to do so unless Rosneft managers bribed him to allow the transaction, according to Kommersant. That is how the investigators explain Ulyukaev resisting the Bashneft privatization in the fall of 2016. He did not care about defending political stances and simply wanted Rosneft to bribe him.
Conversely, the defense believes the former Rosneft Vice President for Security and Russian FSB Internal Affairs Department Deputy Head General Lieutenant Oleg Feoktistov (one of the prosecution witnesses) and Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin "staged extortion of the bribe by the Minister by passing Ulyukaev ongoing activities as extortion."
May we remind you that Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev was arrested when taking the $2-million ruble bribe in November of 2016. There were his fingerprints on one of the cases with the money he took at a Rosneft office. Ulyukaev has been placed under house arrest. He pleaded not guilty and claimed it was a provocation by the "corrupt managers and corrupt police officers."
The prosecutors want the former Russian Federation Council member to go to prison for 14 years instead of 9 and pay a 500-million-ruble ($8.8 million) fine instead of 70 million rubles ($1.2 million).