Lukoil, “hard to kill” in Romania

For 25 years, Russian billionaire Vagit Alekperov, of Azeri descent, runs the Lukoil giant from his office in Moscow. The United States Department of the Treasury put him on black list of oligarchs in president Putin’s circle of trust. Alekperov says he’s not a friend of Putin, but that he respects him. In Romania, the companies in the Lukoil conglomerate were accused of tax fraud and money laundry. The Romanian prosecutors say that the Russians stole about 2 billion Euros, money that were moved through several European states. In order to dodge payment of taxes, the profit reached the accounts of some off shore companies.

Tax evasion and money laundry in Romania

The Lukoil consortium owns tens of companies in 30 European states, Asia, America and Africa. It entered the Romanian market in 1998, when it bought 51% of the Petrotel refinery from the State Property Fund. For the majority share, the Romanian government received back then over 16.5 million dollars. The Petroltel refinery was not directly purchased by the Russian parent company, but by means of a London subsidiary. At present time, Lukoil România is in the property of Holland headquartered Lukoil Europe Holdings and Austria headquartered Lukoil International Gmbh. In 2014, the Romanian prosecutors announced that six companies in the Lukoil România group were accused of tax evasion and money laundry. The injury: 230 million Euros. A year later, the Russians from Petrotel Lukoil were accused of laundering about two billion Euros through a financial circuit that involved several companies in the Russian group. For example, Petrotel Lukoil imported crude oil from Kazakhstan. “In the economic circuit of the crude oil importation activity generally from the Republic of Kazakhstan (…), there are, on the trading chain, other companies from EU states, the effect being the purchase by SC Petrotel Lukoil SA of higher priced crude oil,” is stated in the indictment. The Lukoil Romanian business is run by Moldovan Victor Jumbei. But the board of the Russian giant Lukoil consists in 11 members. They are led by majority shareholder Vagit Alekperov. In the early ‘90s, he was a deputy and deputy minister, in charge with USSR oil and gas industry. In 1991, he took over three Ministry controlled oil fields and set up Lukoil. Alekperov’s name is on the black list of oligarchs under Kremlin’s control. The list was made public by the US Department of Treasury. In charge with the development strategy and investments is Igor Ivanov, former Russian Foreign Affairs Minister during 1998-2004. Later, the president Vladimir Putin appointed him secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Another important member of the board is Roger Munnings, the president of the Russia-Great Britain chamber of commerce and former KPMG Russia president during 1998-2008. And there is also Richard Matzke, former Chevron vice-president and member of the USA-Russia chamber of commerce. The fact that Vagit Alekperov was included on Washington’s black list does not mean he will be subjected to penalties, but it casts a shadow on future risks. “The banks demand supplementary information. The procedure will be further complicated… These lists are bad”, Alekperov told reporters at a conference. He also said that Lukoil operates on the global market, but business partners will be more aware of commercial relations.