A Chinese company has approached Lukoil to start talks on buying the Russian firm’s refinery in Romania, according to a letter obtained by Reuters, after Lukoil’s unit there was accused of money laundering and tax evasion.
Earlier this month, Romanian prosecutors seized some of Lukoil’s assets in an investigation on suspicion of money laundering – accusations Lukoil denied and then asked for help from the European Commission to fight the charges.
Thomas Mueller, Lukoil’s vice president for oil refining, said last week the company, Russia’s No.2 oil producer, was approached about the possible sale of the Ploiesti refinery but that it had no intentions to sell.
In a letter of intent dated March 2015, obtained by Reuters, Ion Epureanu, general director of British Virgin Islands-based company Kajel Holdings Limited, offered Lukoil the opportunity of starting talks on buying Petrotel which owns Ploiesti.
Kajel Holdings was mandated by China Peace Petroleum Group, based in Beijing, whose website says it focuses on importing and exporting oil products, among other businesses.
Lukoil’s spokesman confirmed receiving the letter and reiterated that the company does not plan to sell its Romanian refinery, one of four belonging to the company outside Russia, with an annual refining capacity of 2.4 million tonnes of oil.
Epureanu when reached by telephone confirmed the content of the letter but declined further comment. Reuters could not reach China Peace Petroleum Group due to the late hour in China.
In October of last year Romanian prosecutors, police and customs inspectors raided the offices of Lukoil near the city of Ploiesti in an investigation into alleged tax evasion and money laundering concerning an estimated 230 million euros.
As a result, Lukoil briefly shut down its local refinery.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Radu-Sorin Marinas in Bucharest, editing by Elizabeth Piper and David Evans)