Gunvor rejects the allegations in Parliament’s questions. The answer is at the bottom of this article.
According to Van Dijk, the green market is not only a huge growth market, investments in it are partly subsidized by the Dutch government. Another reason for Van Dijk to ask parliamentary questions: For how desirable is it for a foreign company to touch on Dutch subsidies and then establish a critical energy infrastructure here? ‘Do we not prefer to keep the critical energy supply in our own hands?’
The problem is that Gunvor’s ownership structure and proportions are shady: the company is headquartered in Geneva, otherwise the company is registered in Cyprus, and according to Van Dijk, there are numerous reports that the company has been exporting oil from Russia for years. But whether and in what ways the Kremlin is involved in Gunvor is unknown. “Putin will never publicly say he owns or is involved in anything, so I would like to know from the government about the ownership structure of this company.”
When asked, Climate Minister Rob Jetten told BNR he did not know the Gunvor company, but said Jetten would investigate. He does not comment further on that. ‘It’s striking,’ says Van Dijk, ‘that he goes into business with a company that you do not know how it works from.’ In addition to clarifying Gunvor, the SP MP will also know whether Dutch subsidies go abroad.
Gunvor Petroleum Rotterdam
Gunvor Group is no stranger to Rotterdam, the group already has its own refinery and distribution center with ‘direct access to the open sea and the European hinterland’. The refinery, formerly owned by Kuwait Petroleum International, has been part of the Gunvor Group since February 1, 2016, one of the largest independent commodity traders in the world.
No ties to Moscow
According to TradeWinds, a news site for international shipping and charters, Gunvor Group said on Friday that it no longer has significant ties with Russia despite its many transactions in the past. “While Gunvor has previously worked in Russia, the company’s trade today has no significant exposure to the country,” the group said in a statement.
According to the statement, Gunvor sold all its Russian assets seven years ago. The ownership of a remaining “minority, non-controlling interest” in the Ust-Luga Oil Products terminal is “currently under review.” Gunvor also pointed out that it has no other external Russian shareholders or financial interests. Chairman and CEO Torbjorn Tornqvist owns 88.4 percent of the company, and the rest is owned by Gunvor employees.
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Stories of the close relationship between Gunvor and the Kremlin have been circulating for years. The company was founded in 2000 by the Swede Torbjörn Törnqvist and the Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko, a close friend of Putin. Timchenko ended up on the international sanctions list following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, when his Swedish partner bought him out. But according to the U.S. Treasury Department, Putin has investments in Gunvor and possibly access to Gunvor funds.
Based on WikiLeaks, the London Daily Telegraph reported as early as 2010 that the assets of the then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were linked to a “secret Swiss-based oil trading company” called Gunvor. The newspaper also spoke with the then US Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Beyrle, who reported on close ties between Gunvor and the Russian government.
A documentary from Swedish Radio in 2017 showed that Gunvor was involved in a Belarusian oil smuggling operation with corruption at the highest level in the Belarusian government. In March 2020, The Sunday Times published an article based on an interview with Sergei Pugachev – once known as the Kremlin banker – linking Gunvor back to Vladimir Putin.
Also read | The White House: Opening of the Moscow Stock Exchange is a charade
Gunvor .s answer
In an email to the editorial staff, the Gunvor Group’s corporate affairs director calls the allegations in the article “absurd”. Gunvor emphasizes that the Swede Torbjörn Törnqvist has a majority shareholding and that the rest of the shares are owned by employees. Gunvor Group also protests against the description that “Gunvor’s ownership structure and relationships are extremely shady.” Vladimir Putin has no and never had any interest, involvement or ownership in the company, Gunvor said. After all, the allegations are not supported by any evidence, according to Gunvor.
Below is the text of the letter Gunvor sent to BNR:
First, as regards Gunvor’s ownership, our company is majority owned by Torbjörn Törnqvist, a Swedish national who owns 88.4% of the company and who is the sole real owner of all these shares. The remaining percentage is owned by Gunvor employees. There are no external economic interests, neither Russian nor otherwise. The truth of these statements is confirmed by the fact that Gunvor has a listed bond, which was managed by Citigroup, a US company. This bond and its prospectus are legally binding and extensive due diligence amounts were performed – as has been done for all of Gunvor’s more than $ 19 billion in financing. We work with more than 60 international financial institutions that perform significant compliance and KYC checks.
Secondly, I like that your description of Gunvor is “extremely shady”. Let us be clear: Vladimir Putin has not and has never had any interest, involvement or ownership in Gunvor, either beneficial or otherwise. You and others have repeated such claims, but neither you nor anyone else has ever presented evidence. As for Gunvor proving his ownership, see above. You should also note that despite all the Russia-related sanctions from the United States and other governments since 2014, including those in recent months, Gunvor has never been targeted. The US Treasury Department and OFAC have long ago confirmed that Gunvor should not be affected by sanctions against the company’s former shareholder, Mr. Timchenko. As reported by Reuters at the time: “US officials also made it clear that they did not want sanctions against Timchenko to affect the company. [Gunvor]”Gunvor has also received assurances from the US government that it has no problem with our company. Since 2014, Gunvor has also opened two offices in the United States, in Houston, Texas and Stamford, Connecticut, which now has more than 150 employees. The United States is one of our fastest growing locations, and our company even participates in the U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship program.
In addition, you may notice that in Germany, where Gunvor owns another refinery, Reinhard Brandl, a German CSU politician and member of the Bundestag, recently publicly stated: “There is currently no connection between Gunvor and Russia. The Gunvor refinery is not seen as a problem in political Berlin, but as part of the solution. ” (“The role of refineries in the regions for a possible oil embargo”)
Thirdly, Gunvor has been a good employer and manager of the Rotterdam refinery, which has been operating well since the divestment of Kuwait Petroleum and today is working to secure the future of the plant and its employees. In the last few years, Gunvor has invested significantly in transforming Gunvor Petroleum Rotterdam (GPR) as part of our company’s Energy Transition strategy, which will give GPR a renewed future – including the ongoing program for recycling plastic waste (in partnership with Dow )), a treatment program for hydrogen-treated vegetable oil (HVO) and the hydrogen terminal project, among other initiatives under way. This is important not only for the environment, but for energy security reasons.