MOSCOW -- A Russian court yesterday rejected the Yukos oil company's appeal to suspend government efforts to collect $3.4 billion in back taxes -- a massive bill that has put Russia's largest oil producer on the verge of ruin.
The Moscow Arbitration Court denied a petition from Yukos, which asked it to put bailiffs' steps to collect the 2000 debt on hold until appeals against the seizure of core subsidiaries have been heard.
While Yukos has paid some $750 million of its back taxes bill, the company has frequently warned that with its bank accounts frozen and a stop order in place on selling assets, bankruptcy and production cuts could be just around the corner. Authorities, meanwhile, have been investigating Yukos tax records for the following years, and observers say the total debt could grow to $10 billion.
The arbitration court handed Yukos a second defeat later yesterday, rejecting its appeal of a decision by bailiffs not to use the company's 30 percent stake in the Sibneft oil company as collateral for the tax bill.
On a positive note for Yukos, the Interfax news agency reported that the British-Russian oil company TNK-BP has completed its acquisition of Yukos's 56 percent share in Rospan, a Siberian gas venture, for $357 million -- a development that could help Yukos pay its tax bill.