US arrests Novatek finance chief over alleged tax misconduct
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US arrests Novatek finance chief over alleged tax misconduct

By Sam Tabahriti 24 Sep 2021 (Last Updated September 24th, 2021 11:08)

One of the most influential executives in Russia’s natural gas industry has been arrested by the US.

US arrests Novatek finance chief over alleged tax misconduct
the company began operation of its flagship Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic in 2017. Credit: Novatek

The Department of Justice released a statement on Thursday in which they said that Mark Gyetvay, chief financial officer at Russian natural gas producer Novatek, was charged with defrauding the US  by not disclosing his substantial offshore assets; failing to report substantial income on his tax returns: and failing to pay millions of dollars of taxes.

Gyetvay allegedly schemed to defraud the US by hiding ownership and control over “substantial offshore assets” that were at one point worth more than $93m. He was also accused of submitting a false offshore compliance filing with the IRS in an attempt to avoid substantial penalties and criminal prosecution.

A federal jury returned an indictment in which, from 2005 to 2016, Gyetvay allegedly placed “lucrative” stock options or stock-linked remuneration from a “large Russian gas company” in two Swiss bank accounts, the US Justice Department said.

He was accused of seeking to conceal his ownership of the accounts through manoeuvres including making his then Russian wife the beneficial owner. He also allegedly failed to file US tax returns on deadline or filed false ones to hide the fraud, despite being a certified public accountant with work experience in the US and Russia.

Gyetvay joined Novatek in 2003 as CFO and a member of the management board to help transform Russia’s top independent gas producer in 15 years into the country’s leading liquefied natural gas processor and exporter.

With Gyetvay as deputy chair of the management board since 2010, the company began operation of its flagship Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic in 2017, attracting large investments from France and China.

Yamal LNG counts France’s TotalEnergies, as well as China National Petroleum Corporation and China’s Silk Road Fund, as investors, which together own a stake of almost 50%.

Novatek is also associated with the billionaires Leonid Mikhelson, its top shareholder, and Gennady Timchenko, who is a long-time friend of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Gyetvay is known to be amongst the most popular executives in Russia, with various publications ranking him among the top CFOs in the oil and gas sectors in the country and in Europe.

The Justice Department said that his initial court appearance was scheduled for Thursday 23 September in Florida. Should he be convicted, he faces decades in prison, including 20 years for each wire fraud count.