Putin may be involved in the Rotterdam hydrogen terminal

Economy19 July ’22 10:37Author: Mark van Harreveld

The SP will ask parliamentary questions about the possible involvement of Russian President Putin in a Geneva-based energy company wishing to build a hydrogen terminal in Rotterdam. This is Gunvor, an energy company that has previously and more often been associated with the Russian president. SP MP Jasper van Dijk wants a clarification from Minister Rob Jetten for climate and energy: ‘It is very undesirable if this shows Putin’s involvement.’

Aerial photo of the Gunvor Petroleum Rotterdam (GPR) refinery at Rotterdam Europoort.
Aerial photo of the Gunvor Petroleum Rotterdam (GPR) refinery at Rotterdam Europoort. (ANP / Your Captain Aerial Photography)

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 extremely 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, everyone is in doubt. “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.

On its website, Gunvor Group “unequivocally condemns the war in Ukraine and the senseless violence perpetrated against the civilian population.” It is noteworthy that although the word ‘war’, which is banned in Russia, is used, neither of the two warring parties is mentioned by name. Not even convicted.

No ties to Moscow

According to TradeWinds, a news site for international shipping and charterers, 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.

CV Gunvor

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.

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