Investigators End House Arrest for Billionaire Evtushenkov

Russian billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov was freed from house arrest as a probe of his acquisition of a regional oil company continues, according to his lawyer.

Evtushenkov must appear in person when summoned by investigators, Vladimir Kozin, the lawyer, said by telephone today. The Moscow arbitration court in November had prolonged Evtushenkov’s detention until March 16 even after he decided not to challenge the state’s seizure of shares in oil producer OAO Bashneft. He maintains his innocence.

Evtushenkov, 66, is the richest Russian to face criminal charges since Yukos Oil Co. owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky was detained more than a decade ago. Almost 90 percent of his wealth has disappeared this year, spurred by the investigation of his investment company AFK Sistema’s $2.5 billion purchase of Bashneft shares. A Moscow court Oct. 30 ordered Sistema to hand over its controlling stake in the oil assets to the state.

Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed his conditional release, Interfax reported, citing spokesman Vladimir Markin.

Sistema rose 28 percent to $2.40 at the close in London.

“Now all that remains is to hope that the state won’t demand the dividends that Sistema got from Bashneft,” Alexander Branis, the Moscow-based chief investment officer at Prosperity Capital Management Ltd., said by phone.

Investigators are still discussing the idea of claiming Bashneft dividends from Sistema with the Prosecutor General’s Office, Interfax reported Dec. 3. The investigators’ petition to recover 190 billion rubles from Sistema was rejected by a Moscow court in October.

Sistema’s press service declined to comment immediately.

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