Ukrainian gas executive denies connection to Russian crime boss suspect
The co-owner of the company that arranges gas deliveries to Ukraine's 47 million people on Monday denied reports that the company had connections to an internationally wanted suspected Russian crime boss.
Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash issued the statement through his company Group DF, after Russian police last week arrested Semyon Mogilevich in Moscow as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion by the owners of a cosmetic-shop chain.
Mogilevich is also wanted by the FBI on charges of racketeering, securities fraud, mail fraud and money-laundering.
Media reports have suggested Mogilevich is involved with RosUkrEnergo, which is partly owned by Firtash and which acts as a middleman in the sale of Russian natural gas to Ukraine.
Group DF said, however, that neither Firtash nor Group DF had any ties to cosmetics chain Arbat Prestige, and that Firtash «at no time» has had business relations with Mogilevich.
The company also said Mogilevich had «never worked for, or been affiliated with, or profited from dealings with Centragas» _ another company owned by Firtash and a partner in RosUkrEnergo _ nor with Eural Trans Gas, another Firtash company that was involved in the trade of gas between Turkmenistan and Ukraine before RosUkrEnergo was set up.
RosUkrEnergo, based in Switzerland, was created in 2004 to act as a middleman between Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz, which distributes the Russia-supplied gas on which the country relies. It is half-owned by Gazprom, with Firtash and a partner reportedly holding the other 50 percent.
Critics, including Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, say the company's activities are murky and have called for direct dealings with Gazprom.
Firtash was also quoted in an interview published Monday with the Russian business daily Vedomosti as saying that «Today, all information about the property and financial conditions of RosUkrEnergo is absolutely open.
«For me, the connections made between these incidents and the RosUkrEnergo company are completely incomprehensible. I thought that all these accusations had remained in the past,» Firtash was quoted as saying.
Russia charges suspected crime boss with tax evasion
By Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters
"He was charged today with tax evasion," Mogilevich's lawyer Alexander Pogonchikov said by telephone after leaving Moscow's Sailors' Rest prison where Mogilevich is being held. The Interior Ministry confirmed the charge.