Belarus Seeks Uralkali Co-Owner Kerimov’s Arrest, Belta Says

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Belarus, which last week detained the chief of OAO Uralkali, has started a criminal investigation into billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, an investor in the world’s largest potash producer, the state-run news agency Belta said.

Kerimov is wanted for organizing the crime of abuse of office, which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment, Belta said, citing the Belarusian Investigative Committee. Vladislav Baumgertner, chief executive officer of Berezniki, Russia-based Uralkali, was arrested in Minsk on Aug. 26 for abuse of office.

Baumgertner was held after traveling to Belarus for talks at the invitation of Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich. The CEO, who is also chairman of Belarus Potash Co., Uralkali’s trading partnership with state-run Belaruskali, said July 30 that he was dissolving the venture because Belarus had “violated” their agreement by authorizing Belaruskali to export some of its potash independent of BPC.

Belarus is seeking Kerimov’s arrest through Interpol and also expects to cooperate with the Russian prosecutor general’s office, Belta said. Anton Averin, a Moscow-based spokesman for Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva holding company, declined to comment. Pavel Traulko, a spokesman for Belarus’s Investigative Committee, didn’t return calls seeking additional comment.

Kerimov, 47, is a member of the Russian senate and his foundation controls a 21.75 percent stake in Uralkali valued at about $3 billion. He has built his fortune by investing in industries including real estate and banking.

Kerimov won’t travel abroad should Belarus seek his arrest through Interpol, Interfax reported, citing his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena.

Uralkali has denied that Baumgertner committed any offense and has called for his release. The company said Aug. 30 it was “implementing all necessary measures” to have Baumgertner freed. A Russian government official said Aug. 30 the CEO’s detention was expected to end in “the coming days.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Aliaksandr Kudrytski in Minsk, Belarus at akudrytski@bloomberg.net; Yuliya Fedorinova in Moscow at yfedorinova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net; Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net