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Judge dismisses YUKOS bankruptcy case
Updated: 2005-02-25 08:53

A U.S. judge on Thursday dismissed Russian oil company YUKOS' U.S. bankruptcy case, saying the issue belonged in a forum that included the participation of the Russian government.

The ruling, which came just hours after a summit between US President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, ends two months of legal maneuvering by YUKOS to pull the U.S. courts into the ongoing battle between the company and the Kremlin.

YUKOS has complained it was the victim of a Russian government-orchestrated campaign to destroy it and former owner Mihkail Khodorkovsky, who is facing a 10-year prison term for fraud and tax evasion.

Imprisoned former head of Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is on trial for massive fraud and tax evasion, is due to testify in court(AFP/File/Maxim Marmur)
Imprisoned former head of Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is on trial for massive fraud and tax evasion, is due to testify in court. [AFP/File]
The Russian government, which has levied a $27.5 billion back tax bill on YUKOS, has steadfastly denied it would abide by any rulings from U.S. courts on the issue, and did not appear as a participant in the case.

"The vast majority of the business and financial activities of YUKOS continue to occur in Russia. Such activities require the continued participation of the Russian government," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Letitia Clark wrote in her ruling.

YUKOS made its surprise bankruptcy filing in Houston in December in a failed bid to halt the sale of its main oil-producing arm.

Russian authorities sold YUKOS's Yuganskneftegaz at auction in December despite restrictions imposed by Judge Clark. The unit was bought by a previously unknown group for $9.4 billion, which itself was subsequently bought by state-controlled oil company Rosneft.

The decision was hailed by a lawyer for Gazpromneft, a former unit of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom which had opposed the U.S. court's jurisdiction.

"We've said from the very beginning that once the judge had the chance to hear both sides there would be no question she would dismiss this bankruptcy," said Michael Goldberg, an attorney with law firm Baker Botts LLP.

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