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Ex-Economy Minister Ulyukaev says privatization of Bashneft by Rosneft was not feasible

The deal did not result in transfer of the assets into private ownership, Alexey Ulyukaev said at the court

MOSCOW, November 27. /TASS/. The privatization of Bashneft oil company by Rosneft oil company did not result in transfer of the assets into private ownership, that is why the deal was not feasible, ex-Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukaev said at the Zamoskvoretsky court of Moscow on Monday, a TASS correspondent reported. He was interrogated during the court proceedings.

Ulyukaev stressed that it was a matter of feasibility not of legality.

"Legally, Rosneft could buy Bashneft. When the Economic Development Ministry issued a conclusion with my signature it was the legitimacy of the deal that was assessed, so that conclusion was positive, "Ulyukaev said.

Ulyukaev, who is accused of extorting a $2 mln bribe from Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, testified in court that he was innocent.

On Monday, the ex-minister said in court that he had not discussed with Sechin the privatization of Bashneft and had not extorted a bribe for this.

"The first time we discussed privatization with Sechin during the BRICS summit in Goa, during a game of billiards, we had a very short conversation. Sechin was in a good mood," Ulyukaev said.

According to him, Sechin said, "we did a good job," meaning privatization of Bashneft. "He also told me that I can already make a hole in the lapel of my jacket, hinting at a state award. Then Sechin said:" I'll treat you to a wine that you never tasted," Ulyukaev said. He added that because of that promise, he thought the bag he was given contained elite alcoholic beverages.

According to Ulyukaev, immediately after the arrest, the Federal Security Service officers forbade him to make calls, but the video-recording of what was happening was conducted from the very beginning.

He admitted that after the arrest he was confused, so answering the question about what is in the bag, initially he said he did not know. "But then I remembered and said that it must be wine that Sechin promised me during the meeting in Goa," he said.

Ulyukayev, the then federal minister, was detained on November 14, 2016, which was the first detention of a senior government official in Russia’s modern history. He is facing charges of large-scale bribe-taking by a government official (Part 6, Section 290 of the Russian Criminal Code).

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, Ulyukayev was detained while taking a $2 mln bribe for the ministry’s positive opinion about Rosneft’s purchase of a 50.08% stake in Bashneft. Moreover, according to investigators, the former minister is charged with bribe extortion through threats to Rosneft representatives.

In November 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin relieved Ulyukaev off his duties over the loss of trust. The former minister is under house arrest.

In 2016, Rosneft acquired 50.1% of Bashneft shares for 329.7 bln rubles ($5.7 bln). Later, after Rosneft made an offer to minority shareholders, it took control of 57.7% of Bashneft's authorized capital. Bashkiria holds 25% plus one share in the company.