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Yukos Debt to be Paid by Further Assets Sales

The remaining assets of the shattered Yukos oil company could be sold off to repay the more than $7 billion in back taxes that it still owes, the court marshals service said Friday.

Last December, Yukos' main production unit was acquired by state oil company Rosneft after a disputed auction to cover part of a bill totaling $28 billion.

Sergei Sazanov, deputy head of the Federal Court Marshals Service, said last week that Yukos had so far paid $14 billion of its bills, some of which still must be upheld by a court before they can be collected.

"A decision might be made to sell its assets," Sazanov was cited by its press department as saying on Friday.

The company's stock fell on the back of the reports that the assets may be seized and sold.

While a trickle of payments continued to come from Yukos -- whose Russian assets and accounts are frozen by multiple court orders -- these were "comparatively insignificant" Sazanov said.

Sazanov said Yukos owed about 200 billion rubles ($7.4 billion), including $475 million to a group of foreign banks, Interfax reported.

If the situation does not change, the process of selling off assets could be started, he said, noting that this could take three months.

Court marshals began executing an order to recover the $475 million from Yukos after Societe Generale, Citigroup and 12 other lenders won a Russian court case against the near-bankrupt oil producer, Interfax said Tuesday.

Yukos spokeswoman Claire Davidson said she was not aware of any formal notice of a decision to sell the company's assets. She declined to comment further.

The sale of Yukos' most lucrative oil fields and the parallel sentencing of its former owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev to eight years' imprisonment is seen as the Kremlin's punishment for Khodorkovsky's political ambitions.

(The Moscow Times 17.x.05)

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