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US bankruptcy court asked to halt Yukos asset sale

[JURIST] Eduard Rebgun, who was appointed by a Moscow court hearing a bankruptcy case for crippled Russian oil company Yukos [corporate website; JURIST news archive] to manage the company, petitioned a federal court in New York City under Chapter 15 [backgrounder] of the US bankruptcy code to halt Yukos' London-based management team from selling Mazeikiu Nafta [Wikipedia backgrounder], the company's largest refinery in the Baltic states, based in Lithuania. Yukos Chief Executive Steven Theede, who is self-exiled in London, continues to press ahead with negotiations to sell Mazeikiu, despite Rebgun's attempts to halt the sale. The New York court issued a temporary injunction barring Yukos management from attempting to dissolve the company's assets. The potential sale of Mazeikiu has sparked a frenzy between the Lithuanian government and four oil companies - LUKOIL, TNK-BP, PKN Orlen and KasMunaiGas. Rumors abound that Yukos will sell Mazeikiu to the Lithuanian government for $1.7 billion, and then the government will sell the refinery to KasMunaiGas.

While the fate of Mazeikiu remains uncertain, Yukos' demise is almost certain after Russian tax officials froze its assets and demanded $33 billion in back taxes. Bankruptcy proceedings [BBC report] began in Moscow in late March. The Russian state oil firm Rosneft will likely be the main beneficiary of Yukos' bankruptcy, potentially swallowing up all of Yukos' Russian assets. A Moscow court found former head of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky [MosNews profile; JURIST news archive; defense website] guilty of tax evasion in 2005; Khodorkovsky is still pursuing appeals of his conviction [JURIST report]. Yukos Vice-president Vasily Aleksanyan was charged [JURIST report] with embezzlement and money laundering in early April. Reuters has more. MosNews has local coverage.

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