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March 7, 2021

“Lukoil affair” sends waves … into Bucharest press

By    Constantin Radut

Following the searches conducted by the Prosecutors of the Ploiesti Court of Appeal on Thursday to the various Lukoil Romania locations, on Friday the Russian operator with a presence of 15 years in Romania was announcing the closing down of its installations at the Petrotel refinery in Prahova County. Two days later, the company was informing through a release that the refinery would resume activity.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Victor Ponta had a position on the matter, making quite a few eyebrows rise in the Bucharest media, especially after an intervention on the same subject by the ambassador of the Russian Federation in Romania.
Many Wednesday newspapers highlight the contradictory points in the ‘Lukoil affair’. Gandul.ro runs a story with the headline ‘How the Russian company avoided seizure after the premier stepped into the case and snapped at prosecutors’, referring to a statement made by the premier, according to whom the prosecutors could work just as well with the installations in operation.
‘Ziarul Financiar’ headlines: ‘Black-or-white with Lukoil sequestration: double standard or electoral scenario?’ And the column adds: ‘Within 24 hours of PM Victor Ponta’– intervention in favour of the 3,500 jobs the Russian from Lukoil have in Romania, the seizure that had frozen the operations of the Petrotel-Lukoil refinery was partly lifted in order for the unit where roughly 470 people work in reality and which has collected a total loss of EUR 580 M since 2008 to be able to resume activity. The premiere intervention by ex-prosecutor Victor Ponta in the biggest money laundering and tax evasion affair in Romania, with an evaluated damage of EUR 230 M and the lifting of the freezing measure overnight poses quite a few questions’.
Mediafax news agency tries to calm down spirits and says: ‘Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Tuesday reiterated the idea that the Government does not interfere with justice affairs in the case of Petrotel-Lukoil, but supports the safeguarding of jobs and payment of wages to workers, calling upon the minister of justice to send out his message correctly… On Monday, PM Victor Ponta said the prosecutor is sovereign and independent in the investigation of the Lukoil case, but the Government hoped in a legal solution allowing the punishment of responsible persons and recovery of the damage, while permitting the normal operation and payment of wages to the employees’.
In the meantime, Petrotel workers are happy they have not stopped working and will cash their wages on time.
However, a last minute piece of news hits the nail on the head, probably marking a ‘happy end’: The Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Appeal of Ploiesti notes that the decisions in the case of S.C. Petrotel Lukoil S.A. were made after talks with the management of the company and ‘not as a result of any public statements made by persons in the public space’.

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