Sunday, December 4, 2022

Authorities search ex-head of Naftogaz Kobolyev’s home over contentious debt settlement

by Alexander QueryFebruary 1, 2022 8:51 pm
The State Investigation Bureau searched on Feb. 1 the house of Andriy Kobolyev, former head of state-owned gas operator Naftogaz. (Naftogaz press service)

The State Investigation Bureau searched the house of Andriy Kobolyev, former head of the state-owned oil and gas monopolist Naftogaz, on Feb. 1.

According to the Bureau, the searches were part of a case set to investigate the legality of an agreement signed by Kobolyev in 2020 to transfer 305 million cubic meters of gas from state ownership to private companies.

Kobolyev, who was sacked from Naftogaz in April 2021 for closing the previous year with $684 million in losses, said on Facebook that he acted in the interests of the state-owned company.

"In the process of resolving the problem that arose more than 20 years ago, the teams of Naftogaz and Ukrtransgaz were guided by the interests of these companies and were able to prevent illegal write-offs of about Hr 2 billion ($70 million),” he wrote.

The office of Naftogaz's subsidiary Ukrtransgaz and private companies involved in a decade-long legal hurdle were also searched by authorities.

The dispute began in 1999, when Ukrenergozbut, a relatively small private gas distribution company, transferred 418 million cubic meters of gas to Ukrtransgaz, the national gas transmission system operator, to be redistributed to the company's consumers.

However, Ukrtransgaz failed to redistribute most of it and kept 305 million cubic meters in its network, for which Ukrenergozbut fought since then through legal means.

In 2019, the debt was bought by Fin-Invest, a company reportedly linked to businessman Kostyantyn Zhevago, charged with embezzlement. Soon, a court ordered Uktransgaz to pay the debt to Fin-Invest.

Zhevago for alleged embezzlement of $113 million through Finance and Credit, a bank he used to own, and through which he bought Ukrenergozbut’s debt. Since then, the oligarch has been on the run.

In mid-2020, Ukrtransgaz’s debts passed to Profi-Gas, a company linked to Ukrainian businessman Igor Voronov, who also owns Ukraine-based insurance company Uniqa.

In late 2020, Ukrtransgaz asked Naftogaz to reach an amicable agreement to settle the conflict, which led to Profi-Gas receiving gas worth $77 million (Hr 2.2 billion), the amount of the contentious debt.

However, in late 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that Profi-Gas illegally bought the company's debt.

Now, Ukrtransgaz is demanding that Naftogaz pays for the damages caused by the transfer of 305 million cubic meters of natural gas to Profi-Gas.

The Investigation Bureau argued that Kobolyev signed the transfer without the consent of the Naftogaz supervisory board which deprived the state of the $77 million.

Kobolyev alleged that the investigation was an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate him.

“There is no point in scaring me or sending me threats,” he said.

Alexander Query
Alexander Query
Business reporter

Alexander Query is a business reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He is the former business editor at the Kyiv Post. He worked as a TV correspondent and an anchorman at UATV in Ukraine, and received a BA in modern literature from La Sorbonne, in Paris.

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