FACTBOX-Five facts about Gennady Timchenko

MOSCOW, May 27 (Reuters) - One of Russia's most secretive businessmen, Gennady Timchenko, said on Wednesday his company, Volga Resources, had built up an 18 percent stake in gas firm Novatek NVTK.MM. [ID:nLR970262]

Here are five facts about Timchenko:

* A 56-year-old Geneva resident, Timchenko was the co-founder of Switzerland-based oil trader Gunvor in partnership with businessman Torbjorn Tornqvist. Gunvor handles over a third of Russian exports of crude oil and refined products, making it the world’s third-largest crude oil trading company by volume.

* Gunvor was expected to post sales of $70 billion in 2008, up from $43 billion in 2007, when it sold around 83 million tonnes, and just $5 billion in 2004. The bulk of volumes came from state-controlled Russian companies Rosneft ROSN.MM and Gazprom Neft SIBN.MM.

* Last year, a Rosneft minority shareholder was unsuccessful in a lawsuit that sought to force Rosneft to disclose information on its relationship with Gunvor. [ID:nLK333938]

* In 2008, Timchenko -- who has never given a public interview -- wrote an open letter to say media speculation that he enjoyed special ties with Russia’s former president and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, were “overblown”.

Timchenko said he owned a few trading companies in and near St Petersburg in the 1990s, when Putin worked in the office of the city’s mayor. He also co-sponsored a judo club where Putin became honorary president.

“Time and again, the media wrongly jump to the conclusion that the judo club connection means that Mr Putin and I are ‘close’, then leaps into conspiracy-theory mode,” he said.

* Timchenko is now diversifying his oil wealth. He set up fund Volga Resources to invest in gas, infrastructure and development projects in the former Soviet Union, Eastern and Central Europe and Turkey.

Compiled by Simon Shuster and Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by John Stonestreet