* Ulyukayev sting planned by Rosneft and law enforcement
* Sechin cooperated with law enforcement, two sources say
* Ulyukayev denies bribery charges
* Sechin role likely to bolster reputation as Kremlin
MOSCOW, Feb 1 Igor Sechin, head of Russia's
biggest oil company Rosneft, set up a personal meeting with a
government minister for what was in fact a law enforcement
sting, after which state investigators charged the minister with
receiving a $2 million bribe, two sources familiar with the case
Alexei Ulyukayev, who at the time was minister for economic
development, was detained in the late night operation on Nov. 14
at Rosneft's Moscow headquarters. It was the first time in
decades a serving Russian minister had been arrested. Ulyukayev,
60, denies the charges.
The Investigative Committee, the state body investigating
the case, said in a statement at the time that Ulyukayev had
extorted the $2 million in return for giving his ministry's
approval for an acquisition that Rosneft made last year.
The operation at the Rosneft offices, just across the Moskva
river from the Kremlin, was planned in advance by law
enforcement agencies in conjunction with unnamed Rosneft
officials, the state investigators said.
To make the operation happen, Sechin, in coordination with
law enforcement officers, arranged to meet the minister in
person that night at the Rosneft offices, according to the two
sources. Reuters was unable to confirm their accounts
At that meeting, Sechin was present when Ulyukayev was
handed a large amount of cash, said the two sources, who
declined to be identified because they were not authorised to
discuss the case publicly.
The money that the minister is alleged to have received at
the meeting is now part of the prosecution's case against
Ulyukayev, the sources said. He was fired from his job soon
after his arrest, and is under house arrest awaiting trial.
Asked about Sechin's involvement in the sting operation as
outlined by the two sources, a Rosneft representative said:
"Rosneft does not have the right to comment on investigative
activities. We suggest approaching the Investigative Committee
with this query."
The Investigative Committee did not respond to a request for
comment. In a Nov. 15 statement, it said it had been able to
detain Ulyukayev "thanks to Rosneft representatives alerting law
enforcement agencies in a timely fashion about the minister's
A lawyer representing Ulyukayev declined to comment.
As Rosneft chief executive, Sechin heads the world's biggest
listed oil company by output.
It is unusual in Russia for someone of his stature to get
involved in a law enforcement operation, said Pavel Lapshov, a
managing partner in the "Patron" law practice and a former
senior interior ministry official.
"As far as I can remember, there have been no such cases,"
he told Reuters.
Sechin's role in the case bolstered his reputation inside
the ruling elite as a feared Kremlin enforcer who wields an
increasing amount of power within a system built up by Russian
President Vladimir Putin, according to several government
officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Ulyukayev told a Moscow court after being arrested he was
not guilty. One of Ulyukayev's lawyers, Timofei Gridnev, told
Reuters on the day after Ulyukayev's detention that what
happened with his client in the Rosneft office was a
"provocation", but he did not elaborate.
(Additional reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by
Christian Lowe, editing by Peter Millership)