Russian police and agents from the Federal Security Service searched the Moscow office of oil company Forteinvest, in what was said to be an investigation into smuggling oil from Russia to Ukraine, Izvestia reported on Wednesday.
Forteinvest is headed by Said Gutseriyev, son of tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev. The company is a controlling shareholder in Russian oil refineries Orsknefteorgsintez and Afipsky, and is part of a wider Safmar Group of companies, the umbrella Gutseriyev’s family business.
Searches were also conducted in Mikhail Gutseriyev’s house as well as other companies linked to the billionaire.
According to sources cited by Izvestia, oil products were loaded into a tanker at the port of Novorossiysk, with documents showing they are bound for Turkey and Bulgaria, but were “lost” along the road and ended up in Odessa. The damage from smuggling is estimated at 2 billion rubles ($32 million). Representatives of law enforcement agencies told the newspaper that the main defendant in the case is Gutseriev’s son Said, who controls Forteinvest.
In a statement on its web-site, Safmar said that the media reports did not “correspond with reality”, adding that “law enforcement bodies do not have any claims to the companies of the group”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call on Wednesday the Kremlin was unaware of the searches.
Other Safmar assets include mid-sized oil producer Russneft, retailer M.Video Electronics, real estate developer A101, as well as assets ranging from coal and potash to the financial sector and hotel business.