Thursday, March 20, 2014

As The U.S. Treasury Sanctions Its Founders, Oil Trader Gunvor Denies Knowing 'This Putin Fellow'

Okay, truth be told they didn't do the "Putin who?" schtick.
But they come close.

From our 2010 post "Putin Takes a Stand Against Wind Power":
I have always thought of the Prime Minister as Hydrocarbon Man.
Back in 2007 the Guardian published "Putin, the Kremlin power struggle and the $40bn fortune" which stated:
...In an interview with the Guardian, Belkovsky repeated his claims that Putin owns vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies, concealed behind a "non-transparent network of offshore trusts".

Putin "effectively" controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company and Russia's third biggest oil producer, worth $20bn, he says. He also owns 4.5% of Gazprom, and "at least 75%" of Gunvor, a mysterious Swiss-based oil trader, founded by Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president's, Belkovsky alleges....
This led to a letter to the editor the next day, from Gunvor's CEO. "Putin owns no part of Gunvor". which categorically denied that Vlad had any interest in the trader.

Last Thursday the Financial Times published "Oil trading group Gunvor denies Putin links"....
Here's the latest, from the Financial Times:

US targets Vladimir Putin’s inner circle
By Richard McGregor in Washington, Peter Spiegel in Brussels, Roman Olearchyk in Kiev, and Stefan Wagstyl in Berlin

President Barack Obama struck at the heart of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle on Thursday, slapping sanctions on 20 individuals and a Russian bank linked to his closest associates.

The US response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea triggered an immediate change of ownership in Gunvor, the world’s fourth-largest oil trader. Its co-founder Gennady Timchenko, who was included on the US blacklist, sold his 43 per cent stake to ensure its “continued and uninterrupted operations”, the company said.

Escalating sanctions on Russia prompted Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, to revise its outlook for Russian debt down to negative from stable, citing “rising geopolitical and economic risks”....MORE
Meanwhile, at the Wall Street Journal:

Gunvor Denies Putin's Involvement in Its Business
Privately-held commodity trader Gunvor Group said U.S. Treasury allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin has investments in its business are "outrageous."

The U.S. Treasury Thursday announced a second round of sanctions against Russian officials and members of the Kremlin's inner circle, including one of Gunvor's founding members, Gennady Timchenko. 

In a statement published on its website, the Treasury said Mr. Timchenko's activities in the energy sector have been directly linked to Putin. According to the Treasury's statement, the Russian president owns investments in the company and may have access to its funds.

"President Putin has not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise in Gunvor," the company said in an emailed statement. "Any understanding otherwise is fundamentally misinformed and outrageous," it said....MORE
For an idea of the scale these guys see themselves living on, our 2011 post Nice Shack: "RuLeaks posts photos of alleged 'Putin Palace'" :
RuLeaks, a WikiLeaks type site owned and operated by the Russian Pirate Party, was shut down by a denial of service attack yesterday after posting photos of a lavish mansion alleged to be Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's estate on the Black Sea. The site, and the photos, are now back up. 
The existence of the "Putin palace" on the Black Sea was discussed by the Washington Post's David Ignatius in an article last year. According to Russian whistleblower Sergey Kolesnikov, the still under-construction digs cost more than $1 billion, include an amphitheater and three helipads and is being "predominantly paid for with money donated by Russian businessmen." Putin's spokesman denied the report, saying that the building has nothing to do with Putin.

From the photos, the place certainly looks fit for a Romanov, with frescoed ceilings, outdoor maze bushes, marble floors, and four-post beds. Bizarrely, a man who appears to be a construction worker with his face blacked out poses in a number of the shots. (He may want to read up on the fates of previous WikiLeakers.) RuLeaks' description of the photos coyly describes them as "photographs of a palace, which has recently been discussed in the press"....MORE