"Oil Czar" Sechin defies court in hearing over former economy minister

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin
By bne IntelliNews November 14, 2017

Igor Sechin, influential head of Russia's largest oil company Rosneft, defied a court order to testify as a key witness at the hearing of the ex-Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukayev, Russian media reported on November 13.

Sechin again demonstrated his quasi-sovereign position as he and Rosneft reportedly refused to accept the letter from the court demanding his presence as a witness. And it is was Sechin who personally gave Ulyukayev the case of money for which he is now on trial on graft charges.

The bribery case against Ulyukaev is believed to have been manufactured by Sechin in response to the ministry's opposition to Rosneft buying a regional oil gem Bashneft.

Ulyukayev is accused of receiving a $2mn bribe from Sechin, an ex-KGB operative and personal friend of President Vladimir Putin, after he signed off on the acquisition of 50.08% stake in Bashneft. 

In the meantime Kremlin's press secretary Dmitri Peskov told the press that when Sechin was scheduled to appear in court, he was participating in Russian-Turkish negotiations in the city of Sochi on November 13 and was unable to attend.

Previously Rosneftegaz, a state holding headed by Sechin that holds the state stakes in oil and gas majors Rosneft and Gazprom, has acted as a law unto itself and repeatedly defied the government orders to pay dividends, disclose the details of investment programs and report all its financial information to its owners.

Sechin is also believed to be personally involved in controversial cases such as the jailing the head of one Russia's largest oil company Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Rosneft’s main assets are based on those of Yukos that was nationalised after Khodorkovsky arrest in 2003.

This month Sberbank pulled a controversial and highly critical report on the head of Rosneft and Rosneftegaz written by its top oil analyst after the state-owned oil company objected to the critical analysis and pressured the bank to remove it.

The investment case of Russia's largest oil company Rosneft was questioned by Sberbank CIB analyst Alex Fak due to aggressive expansionary strategy under its notorious head "oil czar" Sechin, RBC daily reported on November 3 citing the investment bank report that featured a chapter "Rosneft: We Need to Talk About Igor".

Reportedly Sberbank CIB analysts highlight the role of Sechin in perpetuating what is seen as a costly and inefficient expansion of Rosneft in the oil and gas sector, in Russia and abroad.