MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) - The head of Russia’s Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port Rado Antolovic has temporarily stepped down while he faces a criminal investigation into claims he failed to repay a loan.
The Russian government intends to privatise a 20 percent stake in the port - a major outlet for oil and grain exports on the Black Sea - later this year..
“I took a decision to put aside the functions of general director of the NCSP Group during the time of the criminal case opened against me,” Antolovic said in a statement provided to Reuters by a Novorossiysk Port representative.
“It’s obvious that the head of a company must devote himself 100 percent to resolving the tasks of the company, which I can’t do now for understandable reasons.”
The port representative did not say who would stand in for Antolovic.
On March 15, Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case against Antolovic for allegedly failing to repay a $1.5 million loan while acting head of the firm.
Antalovic has denied all wrongdoing, a position that he reiterated in his statement on Tuesday.
He was acting head before becoming chief executive in April last year at the company, where he had been embroiled in a dispute over investment between two major shareholders that was settled in a compromise deal late last month.
Russian state-owned oil pipeline operator Transneft and investment and trading company Summa Group together hold 50.1 percent of the port through a joint venture.