JOHANNESBURG (Business Day) -- The Central Bank of Russia has repudiated claims made last week by its deputy chairman, Konstantin Korishchenko, that the bank was not investigating Norilsk Nickel's $1,1bn purchase of a 20% stake in Gold Fields.
The claim was originally seen as a boost to Harmony's hostile bid for Gold Fields, as it removed the threat of the Russian company's stake being unwound.
Harmony needs the support of Norilsk, which agreed to vote its 20% in its favour through a deal that expires on May 20.
Korishchenko's superior at the bank refuted his statement, saying a probe into the shareholding had been conducted.
But the findings of the probe have remained a "state secret", while sources at the bank said Korishchenko had neither the executive responsibility nor the legal authority to publicly disclose the central bank's capital control operations.
Norilsk bought the 20% in March last year, three months before the passage of a law ending the requirement for capital exporters to obtain the bank's permission. Officials at the Russian embassy in SA yesterday backed Korishchenko's remarks about there being no probe.
The conflicting reports could put pressure on the central bank to reveal details of its secret probe, as well as any agreements it may have reached with Norilsk.