Hours after Washington slapped sanctions on 20 of Russian President
Vladimir Putin's closest long-time political and business allies,
Swiss-based trading firm Gunvor announced that Timchenko had sold
his stake in the firm to Chief Executive Officer Torbjorn Tornqvist
earlier this week in order to "ensure with certainty the continued
and uninterrupted operations" of Gunvor.
It said Tornqvist had become the majority owner with 87 percent, the
remainder held by senior employees.
Timchenko, who co-founded Gunvor in 1997, was among several Russian
businessmen placed under sanctions by the United States on Thursday,
as Washington threatened to drag the huge and far-reaching business
interests of some of Putin's inner circle into the standoff between
Russia and Ukraine.
President Barack Obama threatened broad penalties against key
sectors of Russia's economy if Moscow moves deeper into Ukraine.
Also on the list were brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg. Arkady,
the elder brother, is a long-time judo sparring partner of Russian
President Vladimir Putin and owns Stroygazmontazh, a builder of oil
and gas pipeline projects for Russian state and private energy
"Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor
funds," the U.S. Treasury said as it added Timchenko to its list of
"Specially Designated Nationals." People on the list have their
assets blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from
dealing with them. (Treasury announcement: http://r.reuters.com/baq77v)
Gunvor said in a statement it was outraged by the U.S. Treasury's
linkage of Putin and Gunvor.
"President Putin has not and never has had any ownership, beneficial
or otherwise in Gunvor. He is not a beneficiary of Gunvor or its
activities. Any understanding otherwise is fundamentally misinformed
and outrageous," the company said.
As Gunvor sought to reassure its trading partners that Timchenko's
shareholding had been severed, U.S. officials also said the company
itself did not seem to be at risk.
The U.S. Treasury said it advised caution when considering
transactions with a company that may be controlled by a sanctioned
person, but it added that Timchenko's stake was below the 50 percent
threshold that would automatically trigger sanctions on Gunvor.
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REVENUE OF $93 BLN
Timchenko is a non-executive director of Russian gas company Novatek
and was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur last year.
Gunvor had revenue of $93 billion in 2012, according to a factsheet
on its website, earning $433 million. It traded around 2.5 million
barrels of oil a day, the factsheet showed, the equivalent of almost
3 percent of global supplies.
The company has more than 60 global banking partners, the factsheet
said, and sources crude oil from 35 countries. Gunvor employed more
than 1,600 people in 2012.
Tornqvist told Reuters in November that the company was studying
growing opportunities in North America resulting from the shale oil
boom, including exporting liquid petroleum gas, and looking at
select trading assets.
Gunvor owns a $400 million stake in the Signal Peak coal mine in
Montana that it bought in 2011.
Arkady Rotenberg has a stake in Russia's largest bridge builder
Mostotrest through investment vehicle Marco Polo Investments, where
he is a main shareholder. Both his firms were involved in
construction work for the Sochi winter Olympic Games held last
(Additional reporting by David Sheppard in London and Edward
McAllister in New York; editing by Jonathan Leff and Lisa Shumaker)
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