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Putin interferes with Gazprom investigation

President Vladimir Putin is protecting Gazprom, Russia's giant fuel company, from an European Union antitrust investigation.

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Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with CEO of Russian gas giant Gazprom Alexey Miller during their meeting in Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on Dec. 30, 2011. (Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)

After the European Commission (EC) announced its formal inquiry into the Russian fuel corporation Gazprom, alleging the company violated antitrust laws, President Putin forbid the state-controlled company from assisting officials in the investigation.

The order prohibits "important companies that do business overseas" from cooperating with investigators searching for evidence, according to The New York Times.

“The government wants to protect Gazprom from the attacks,” Sergey Vakhrameev, an IFC Metropol analyst, told Bloomberg News. “This is a way of showing the EU that they should be talking to the government directly, resolving the issue at a higher level.”

The Commission suspects Gazprom hindered competition by fixing unfair prices, obstructing the flow of gas into European countries and "preventing the diversification of supply of gas."

The Commission said, “Such behavior, if established, may constitute a restriction of competition and lead to higher prices and deterioration of security of supply…. Ultimately, such behavior would harm EU consumers.”

Gazprom denied the allegations in a statement on Sept. 5:

“Gazprom pays great attention to observing international law, and legislation in the countries where Gazprom operates. Gazprom’s activities in the EU market, including the formulation of the gas price is in line with standards used by other producers and exporters of gas…. Gazprom is incorporated beyond EU jurisdiction, and is a company which under Russian law exercises functions of public importance and has the status of a strategic organization controlled by the state.”

The Wall Street Journal stresses this is no "small bureaucratic inquiry." When the Directorate General for Competition begins an investigation, they tend to see it through, and they almost never lose.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120912/putin-interferes-gazprom-investigation