Uralkali’s CEO in Moscow Jail After Belarus Extradition

Vladislav Baumgertner, the chief executive officer of OAO Uralkali, is in a Moscow jail after the head of the world’s largest potash producer was extradited from Belarus where he spent almost three months under arrest.

Baumgertner’s immediate fate is in the hands of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Kristina Belousova, a spokeswoman for the Federal Penal Service, said today. The committee’s press office wasn’t immediately able to comment.

The 41 year-old CEO was arrested on Aug. 26, about a month after he withdrew his company from a marketing joint venture with Belarus and accused Uralkali’s partner of selling potash cargoes in breach of their trading agreement. He spent a month in a Belarusian KGB jail, before he was moved to house arrest in a Minsk apartment.

Uralkali is ready to assist investigators and isn’t aware of any information to change its view that the CEO is innocent of any crime, the Berezniki, Russia-based company said in a statement. The company’s press office declined to comment further. Alexey Basistov, a lawyer for Baumgertner, who is accused by Belarus of abuse of office, didn’t answer his mobile phone.

Belarus charged Baumgertner in his capacity as chairman of the potash joint venture, which accounted for 40 percent of global exports of the key soil nutrient.

Kerimov, Prokhorov

Russia opened a case against Baumgertner last month after Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded the country press criminal charges as a condition for extraditing the Uralkali CEO. A Moscow court placed Baumgertner under arrest in absentia, Interfax reported on Oct. 21.

“As the next step, the investigator may ask the court to soften the terms of arrest for Baumgertner and a decision may be taken really quickly -- if not today, then next week,” Marina Krasnobayeva, a lawyer at Moscow-based Yukov & Partners, who isn’t involved in the case, said by phone today.

The Uralkali CEO may be placed under house arrest, or could be released on bail, or be freed with curbs imposed on his travel, Krasnobayeva said. The case against Baumgertner may be processed “quite quickly,” she said.

Belarus extradited Baumgertner days after a buyer was found for the stake of Uralkali’s biggest owner, billionaire Suleiman Kerimov. Lukashenko had called for a change in ownership before any prospect of a resumption of joint potash marketing. Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Group agreed to buy Kerimov’s 21.75 percent, valued at about $3.5 billion.

Belarusian-born billionaire Dmitry Mazepin may later buy the stake of about 11 percent that Kerimov’s partners hold in Uralkali, three people with knowledge of the plans said.

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