BG project hit with $1.2bn tax claim in Kazakhstan tussle
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Kazakhstan is preparing to hit one of BG Group's biggest gas projects with $1.2bn (£760m) in back taxes, as the nation's government tries to wrestle itself a stake in the key field.
Karachaganak, the prize gas project owned by BG Group, Italy's ENI and America's Chevron, is the only major field in the Eurasian country where the state has no influence. However, the Kazakh government has been increasing pressure on the three companies and is trying to force them to sell it a 5pc to 10pc shareholding. The foreign consortium saw the first sign of trouble in March, when it was hit by claims of making $700m in illegal earnings. The Kazakh authorities also claim that BG and its partners overstated costs by $1.3bn and accused them of illegally producing gas above the set quota. It has also launched cases against the project for allegedly violating immigration laws, and imposed environmental fines. A source in Kazakhstan's Oil and Gas Ministry claims that the latest levy will be imposed following a feared review of taxes. "The results of checks for the period of 2005-08 show that $1.2bn of taxes have not been paid," he told Reuters. "The decision on Kazakhstan's entry into the project - everything hinges on the settlement of the issue of these tax claims." BG Group declined to comment, while Jason Kenney, an analyst at at ING, said it was “just part of the negotiation process”. The state oil company is still negotiating with BG, ENI and Chevron over buying a stake. Sources say that a deal has already been agreed, but not yet signed. A source close to the government told The Daily Telegraph that ENI and BG Group have agreed to give up part of their 32.5pc stakes in the field, but that Chevron, which holds 20pc, was refusing to reduce its share. Separately, a Ugandan oil minister said that Tullow Oil has agreed to pay a $400m disputed tax bill left behind by Heritage Oil after it sold its stake in a key field to Tullow. The government had been threatening to take Tullow's licence away after Heritage exited the country. Tullow declined to comment.