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Friday, 4 August, 2000, 23:50 GMT 00:50 UK
Russian police in vodka swoop
Russian security guards
Management row cripples Russia's leading vodka plant
Armed guards have seized control of management offices at Russia's best known vodka distillery only hours after a raid by tax police investigating the company.

The Kristall distillery in Moscow, in which the state has a majority shareholding, manufactures the world-famous Stolichnaya brand of vodka.

The guards were reported to be acting on behalf of the new managing director, Aleksandr Romanov who has been involved in a bitter power-struggle among the directors of the distillery.

Mr Romanov has accused the government of trying to bar him from the plant and reimpose full state control.

Reports say, the conflict came as the government is attempting to consolidate state-owned alcohol enterprises into a single holding company.

Financial wrongdoing

According to Interfax news agency, tax officials took documents in connection with an audit conducted earlier this year that uncovered financial wrongdoing, including underreporting of profits.

Vladimir Sivirsky
Calling the shots: acting director, Vladimir Sivirsky
No further details were given. However, Kristall has been experiencing a management dispute in recent months.

The board of directors in May elected Alexander Romanov as the company's general director, but some board members objected.

The Moscow Arbitration Court in July squashed that appointment and Vladimir Sivirsky was made acting director.

However Sivirsky on Friday, failed to attend a meeting by the board to discuss the management question.

Instead, about 15 armed guards and Mr Romanov showed up and entered the plant.

War on oligarchs

Mr Romanov said on NTV television that the move was aimed at "re-establishing the state's ownership."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to cut the country's big businessmen down to size.

A wave of investigations has followed leaving a handful of Russia's top businessmen, known as "oligarchs", facing possible charges of tax evasion or fraud.

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Business
Russia's new oligarchs
26 Aug 99 | Europe
Beer is the new vodka in Russia
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