The Moldovan authorities offered Gazprom to conclude a settlement agreement

The Moldovan authorities offered Gazprom to conclude a settlement agreement

As Kommersant found out, the Moldovan authorities offered Gazprom to enter into a settlement agreement, according to which the Russian company and its structures would write off all Moldovagaz’s debts. In exchange, Chisinau guarantees the absence of lawsuits in connection with a reduction in supplies by $160 million and is ready to pay Gazprom $153.57 million as compensation for “deviations from the tariff.” The Russian monopoly demands more than $700 million in debt from Moldovagaz, of which the country officially recognizes only $8.6 million.

As Kommersant learned, along with the results of the audit of the debt to Gazprom, the Moldovan side sent Moldovagaz (the Russian monopoly is the main shareholder, Moldova owns 35%) a draft settlement agreement. According to the document, Chisinau demands the immediate write-off of Moldovagaz’s debt to the Gazprom-controlled company Factoring Finance (Moldovagaz’s debt in the amount of $275 million was assigned to it) and Gazprom itself ($433 million more).

In exchange, the Moldovan authorities propose that Moldovagaz pay $153.57 million to Gazprom by the end of 2025 as compensation for “deviations from the tariff” (if the Moldovan company’s costs are higher than included in the tariff, it is adjusted for the future period to compensate additional expenses), as well as waive claims that may arise due to incorrect distribution of transit payments and lack of gas supplies under a long-term contract from October 2022 (about $160 million). This scheme is contained in correspondence between officials of the Ministry of Energy of Moldova, auditors and involved lawyers (Kommersant has it).

In early September, Chisinau announced that, following an audit conducted by the Norwegian Wikborg Rein Advokatfirma AS and the British Forensic Risk Alliance, it would recognize only part of the debt claimed by Gazprom. The Russian company demands $709 million from Moldovagaz for supplies and fines for late payments, but Moldova is ready to pay only $8.6 million.

According to the auditors' findings, most of the debt, from 1991 to December 2002, cannot be confirmed due to lack of documents (about $278 million). According to auditors, the company was charged unreasonably high fines for late payments, the debt increased due to the depreciation of the Moldovan leu, and Gazprom itself for many years enjoyed a monopoly position in the country, including by purchasing assets not at market prices. As a result, most of the debts, according to auditors, can be written off (see “Kommersant” dated September 7).

The correspondence between the parties also clarifies that the actions of Gazprom itself significantly reduced the income of Moldovagaz due to the switching of transit from the Trans-Balkan Pipeline to the Turkish Stream, and the stop of gas supply to the right bank of the Dniester deprived the company of sales income.

Repayment of the historical debt for gas supplies to Transnistria was a key condition of the five-year contract concluded in October 2021 between Gazprom and Moldovagaz for 3.3 billion cubic meters of gas. It was assumed that the debt would be closed within five years. But before that, it must be confirmed by an independent external audit.

After this, Moldova unilaterally invited Wikborg Rein Advokatfirma AS, which professionally deals with arbitration disputes with Gazprom, to audit. Thus, the company oversaw the dispute between NJSC Naftogaz of Ukraine and Gazprom in the Stockholm arbitration over gas supply and transit contracts dated 2009. Then Naftogaz won the dispute, receiving $2.9 billion from the Russian monopoly as part of a settlement agreement. The former head of Naftogaz, Andrei Kobolev, the main character in the trial in Stockholm, also appears in the correspondence of the parties. Both auditors in it declare their readiness “to support the government of Moldova in potential litigation/arbitration proceedings with Gazprom.”

Russian gas supplies, according to the contract, were divided between the territory of Moldova on the right bank of the Dniester (about 1.2 billion cubic meters per year) and Transnistria on the left bank (2.1 billion cubic meters).

In October 2022, Gazprom halved - from 9 million to 5.4 million cubic meters per day - gas supplies to Moldova through Ukraine, explaining this by the Ukrainian side blocking one of the two entry points to the export pipeline. Now all supplies (about 4 million cubic meters per day) go to Transnistria.

The Ministry of Energy of Moldova did not respond to Kommersant’s request. Gazprom did not specify whether they were ready to consider a settlement agreement, but reported that the corresponding project had indeed been submitted to Moldovagaz.

The Russian monopoly emphasizes its disagreement with the auditors' findings. “Gazprom has no doubt that Moldovagaz’s debt for gas supplies to consumers on the right bank is many times greater than what is indicated in the “auditor’s report,” Gazprom said. “The debt is confirmed quarterly by the signing of bilateral reconciliation acts, and also by decisions of international arbitration. Considering that the compilers of these documents do not have the necessary qualifications to conduct an audit according to international standards, the fact is obvious: what the Moldovan side calls an audit is not one, and its results cannot be trusted.” The company “intends to continue to defend its rights in all possible ways.” According to the agreement, disputes between the parties must be considered in the International Commercial Arbitration at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.

“This is not an audit, but an advisory document,” said Vadim Cheban, head of Gazprom-controlled Moldovagaz, at a press conference on September 21. “Without the approval of Moldovagaz shareholders, it has no legal force.” According to him, the audit is largely based on “assumptions” and contains “the subjective opinions of the consultants who conducted it.”

Sergei Kondratyev from the Institute of Energy and Finance agrees that the auditors, when conducting the assessment, “did not adhere to the principles of transparency and impartiality, acting rather as consultants for the Moldovan government on possible debt reduction or write-off.” Thus, comments about the “monopoly status” of Gazprom as a supplier have, according to the expert, no relation to the debts of Moldovagaz: the government of Moldova did not conduct investigations and did not impose restrictions on supplies from one company, that is, it did not make claims against How gas shipments progressed in 1991–2020. Regarding the lack of contractual documents, Mr. Kondratyev adds, the auditors’ report does not indicate whether information was requested, for example, from the customs committee and banks.

Tatiana Dyatel

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