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Caspian Pipeline Consortium faces $290 mln tax claims - paper

MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's tax authorities have charged the international Caspian Pipeline Consortium pumping Russian and Kazakh oil to the Black Sea $290 million in 2004-05 back taxes, a leading business daily said Friday.

The move comes ahead of a shareholders' meeting July 19, which is expected to decide on issuing $5.5 billion worth of Eurobonds to restructure the consortium's debt. The initiative belongs to state-controlled pipeline monopoly Transneft [RTS: TRNF], which acquired a 24% stake in the consortium in June.

The Kommersant daily said shareholders, who refused to accept Transneft's proposal so far, had been informed about the tax claims July 3. Back taxes make up $ 202 million, with the rest of the sum being fines and interest.

Neither the consortium nor the Federal Tax Service denied the information. "The Caspian Pipeline Consortium said the claims were confidential information, and assistants to the tax service chief, Mikhail Mokretsov, said after consultations with their lawyers that the formula 'we neither confirm nor deny' would be the best in this case," Kommersant said.

Transneft declined to comment.

Apart from issuing the Eurobonds to cover the consortium's losses, Trasneft head Semyon Vainshtok proposed Thursday raising transportation tariffs from the current $24.60 to $38 per metric ton of oil.

Apart from Russia, the consortium's shareholders are Kazakhstan with a 19% stake, the Sultanate of Oman with 7%, Chevron Caspian Pipeline Consortium Company with 15%, LUKARCO B.V. 12.5%, Rosneft-Shell Caspian Ventures Limited 7.5%, and Mobil Caspian Pipeline Company 7.5%.

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