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Audit Chamber Begins Gazprom Probe

August 2, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Russian parliament’s Audit Chamber has begun a probe into the business dealings of the natural gas monopoly Gazprom, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

Yuri Boldyrev, deputy chairman of the chamber, did not offer any details of the check but said auditors in the past have probed gas deals with foreign countries and were suspicious of the huge company’s ownership structure, according to the report.

The Audit Chamber has checked Gazprom and other companies owned in part by the state in recent years and alleged abuse and corruption, but the chamber’s reports are widely ignored. The chamber does not have enforcement powers.

Gazprom is Russia’s largest company. It supplies 25 percent of Western Europe’s natural gas and owns a third of the world’s total reserves. The government holds a 38 percent controlling stake in the company.

Boldyrev said the chamber recently completed a probe into United Energy Systems, an electricity monopoly, but would not release its report until the company had a chance to review it.

Officials reached by phone at the Audit Chamber declined to elaborate on the report.

The Russian government has launched investigations into several large companies and the holdings of wealthy businessmen in what Kremlin officials have characterized as a crackdown on crony capitalism.

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