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Such a "Trafigura"

Was a long-time partner of Rosneft headed by Igor Sechin, which was included in the Vostok Oil project, suspected of large-scale corruption?

According to the correspondent of The Moscow Post, Rosneft managed to attract its first foreign partner to the Vostok Oil strategic project on the Taimyr peninsula. It was the Singapore oil trader Trafigura, one of the key partners of the state-owned company in recent years.

Attracting Trafigura may seem more like a gesture of desperation, or throwing dust in the eyes, than a calculated business move. The fact is that the Vostok Oil project, which was presented to the Russian leadership with pomp a few years ago, so far represents almost nothing but grandiose plans, for which they are trying to get no less grandiose funding.

Vostok Oil assumes large-scale development of oil fields on the Taimyr Peninsula and the North of the Krasnoyarsk territory. First and foremost, on the West Irkinsky area. Oil is supposed to be transported by tankers along the Northern Sea Route, and Eduard Khudainatov's Neftegazholding is to become a partner in the Rosneft project. In the past, the Head of Rosneft, and, as it is believed, a person close to Igor Ivanovich.

But so far, these are just projects. Only in May of this year Rosneft begun the first phase of drilling at the West Irkinsky area. In addition, the financial needs and risks of the project are still not fully calculated, which causes considerable irritation to the country's leadership.

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So far, Vostok Oil exists more on paper than in real life

In February of this year, President Vladimir Putin suggested that Sechin finally calculate how much his "wishlist" can cost for the budget. RBC wrote about this. It turns out that the project at the beginning of the year did not have a clear action plan, while the country was in dire need of further oil and gas development of the Arctic. In such a situation, is was possible that the project could have been taken away from Rosneft at all.

Not Mikhelson

Who can apply for it? Sechin's long-time "sworn friend", the head of Novatek, Leonid Mikhelson. In 2018, when Vostok Oil was already in full discussion, it announced plans to build an LNG terminal in the Ura Bay of the Murmansk region with a capacity of up to 20 million tons per year. Part of the flows to it can be directed exactly from the fields of Vostok Oil.

Another important project of Novatek is the implementation of the Ob LNG project, which should allow Novatek to increase cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route from 21.4 million tons in 2020 to 35.5 million tons by 2024. This means that Sechin's time is running out - either he "enters" Vostok Oil for real, or the Arctic will finally be "reserved" for Mikhelson.

And then suddenly there is Trafigura. Spiteful critics claim that the Singapore structure actively helps companies controlled by Sechin evade Western sanctions, and has a strong corruption smell. Let's try to explain.

Close cooperation between Rosneft and Trafigura intensified in 2015, and the first contract for the supply of oil for $1.5 was signed by the parties in 2013. Today, the Singapore trader is one of the largest companies that deliver oil through European terminals - it ranks fourth in this indicator.

The company's success is ensured by large contracts with Rosneft for the purchase of ESPO Blend, CPC Blend, and since the end of 2015 – Sokol grades - with a total volume of about 1 million tons per month. Vedomosti writes about this. It actually took the place that once belonged to the Gunvor company, created by Gennady Timchenko. Now, Trafigura is not just a partner of Rosneft: allegedly, together they intend to create a trading division to work in Western markets.

If money really does not smell, then for Sechin this statement in cooperation with Trafigura should be true three times, because the promotion of the latter on the market has been repeatedly tried to be explained due to the alleged bribes to the leadership of different countries and state-owned companies.

According to the Prime publication, in 2018, the Venezuelan state oil Corporation PDVSA, among other companies, accused Trafigura of corruption. Allegedly, a criminal case was even initiated in Switzerland on these charges.

The essence of the issue: allegedly, Trafigura, as well as a number of other well-known trading companies (Vitol, Glencore, etc.) received confidential information on a regular basis and corrupted PDVSA employees, as well as violated competition when buying and selling petroleum products.

If this is true, the question arises, on what basis in this case, there is "love" between Rosneft and Trafigura? The Russian state corporation, as well as the name of Igor Sechin himself, have repeatedly flashed in the context of various corruption scandals. If someone starts spreading false rumours that Trafigura is entering Vostok Oil for a large bribe, it will be difficult to convince people otherwise.

Another scandal with Trafigura was developing in Brazil. According to the author of historian19 on the LiveJournal platform, Trafigura and Vitol allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to employees of the Brazilian Petróleo Brasileiro SA in exchange for more favourable terms for concluding trade contracts.

It is curious that representatives of Trafigura then refused to comment, and prosecutors allegedly stated that they also had documentary evidence that could confirm these assumptions. In that case, it was about 160 trading operations and 15 million dollars of "bribes".

The entry of the scandalous Trafigura into Vostok Oil gives Sechin new tools for lobbying Rosneft's interests in the Kremlin. He is not at all shy about pulling money to support the companies he manages. Not so long ago, Sechin received 22 billion rubles for gas carriers that he will have to built for the same Novatek. This was reported by Kommersant.

Why is it out of the budget? It is because it would be cheaper to build the same gas carriers in South Korea, but Sechin needs orders for Zvezda shipbuilding complex. As rumour has it, that's why they allegedly "bent" Mikhelson - you will order gas carriers from Igor Ivanovich, and we will compensate the difference from the budget. Business approach, of course.

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Igor Sechin is happy concerning Trafigura

And all this against the backdrop of a large-scale oil crisis, which, according to many experts, could have been triggered by Sechin's position on withdrawing from the oil agreement with OPEC. For example, journalists of Novaya Gazeta call Sechin directly responsible for the crisis: "the reason for the collapse was the price war in the oil market unleashed by Saudi Arabia against Russia after the failure of the OPEC+ negotiations." Recall that the key role in the negotiations was played by Igor Sechin, as a representative of the largest state-owned oil company in Russia.

Not to mention the long-term confrontation between Igor Sechin and the head of another state corporation, Nikolai Tokarev’s Transneft. According to rumours, Sechin dreams to combine transportation and mining assets under his management, but to do this, objectionable Tokarev has to be dismissed first. Their controversy in the media after the pollution of the Druzhba pipeline (Tokarev is blamed for everything) became one of the main topics of the end of last year and the beginning of this year.

Thus, Igor Ivanovich continues to play his game, which may cause the country to be in minus, because oil remains the country's key export product.

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