Power firm 'spent €200m on Russian favours'
A lobbyist has accused German electricity company EnBW of systematically spending €200 million on sham contracts – distributing the money to churches, chess schools and other “politically useful causes” in Russia.
Andrey Bykov, a lobbyist who supposedly had access to Russian President Vladimir Putin and crucial Russian energy firms Gazprom and Rosneft, told the Handelsblatt business newspaper he had been involved in channelling the EnBW money to help its gas trade ambitions in Russia.
He even named three EnBW chairmen as being responsible for the handouts. “A quarter of the sum was paid out during the time of [Gerhard] Goll, three quarters in the time of [Utz] Claassen and [Hans-Peter] Villis,” he told Tuesday’s paper.
He admitted he pocketed half of the €200 million himself, but gave the rest to support 84 churches, 60 chess schools, 30 memorials, one opera and three orchestras, as well as kindergartens and hospitals. He said the donations “fostered the political landscape.”
The lobby donations were hidden from EnBW's majority owner, Electricité de France, and were declared instead as nuclear technology lobby work, he admitted.
The Handelsblatt said EnBW and Bykov are currently in a legal fight over where the money went.
The paper said that the French firm first began to doubt that the money was being spent as claimed in 2004, when it emerged that the expense was to "create an advantageous climate in the gas area," according to Bykov.
“After the German exit from nuclear power in 2000, EnBW was under enormous pressure. The company urgently needed an alternative source of energy,” he told the paper. Gas was the magic word, he said.
Claassen, in charge of EnBW from 2003 until 2007, told the paper he could not remember anything about millions of euros given to churches and memorials – and said he had not followed such a strategy on gas.
His predecessor Goll, who ran the firm from 1997 until 2003, said there were no sham contracts, but the paper said he certainly was pursuing a gas strategy.
Villis said EnBW had always assumed that Bykov had been using the millions of euros “for contractually agreed purposes” - in other words, buying up fuel.