Belarus prosecutors are studying a Russian request to extradite OAO Uralkali Chief Executive Officer Vladislav Baumgertner, detained in Minsk since August.
“We received the request, we are reviewing it,” Petr Kiselev, a spokesman for the General Prosecutor’s Office in the Belarusian capital, said today by telephone. Russia said yesterday that the request had been sent.
Baumgertner, 41, is under arrest in a Minsk apartment, having been released from a Belarusian KGB jail in September. He was first detained Aug. 26 after withdrawing his potash company from a trading venture with Belarusian partner Belaruskali, and was accused of abuse of office.
Russia opened a case against Baumgertner last month after Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded criminal charges be laid as a condition of his transfer to Russia. The CEO, accused of orchestrating a criminal scheme that caused losses to Russia’s budget, may face 10 years in prison, Interfax reported yesterday, citing a person with knowledge of the case.
Uralkali, the world’s biggest potash producer, roiled the $20 billion market at the end of July after withdrawing from the joint Belarusian venture, accusing Belaruskali of selling cargoes outside their partnership agreement. The Russian company’s pledge to raise output to grab market share sent the stocks of fertilizer rivals tumbling from Toronto to Tel Aviv.
While the Russian charges in theory carry a prison term, “in practice, Moscow is just trying to meet Lukashenko’s demands and he won’t likely go to jail,” Luis Saenz, head of equity sales and trading at BCS Financial Group in London, said today in an e-mailed note.
Belaruskali CEO Valery Kirienko said in August that his company won’t renew cooperation with Uralkali unless the Berezniki, Russia-based producer changes its strategy or owner.
Billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, who shares a 33 percent stake in Uralkali with two partners, has received offers for the holding. Fellow billionaires Mikhail Prokhorov, Mikhail Gutseriev and Vladimir Evtushenkov, as well as former banker Vladimir Kogan and property investor Alexey Khotin, are among possible bidders, people with knowledge of the matter have said.