A Tycoon’s Divorce May Shatter a Corrupt Energy Racket

For some time now, this blog has been closely following several overlapping story threads related to corruption in the Turkmen-Ukraine gas trade, Gazprom and others’ participation in the shadowy trading firm RosUkrEnergo, the Austrian bank Raiffeisen Zentralbank’s (RZB) possible ties to money laundering and the murder of Andrei Kozlov in Russia, and, in case this weren’t all too much, a little bit about the family power struggle in Kazakhstan (although Registan and Bonnie Boyd are the go to sources on that one). Today there is breaking news that Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian gas tycoon who owns 45% of RosUkrEnergo (Gazprom controls the other half, and Raiffeisen formerly served as the trustee to guard Firtash’s stake), is about to go through a pretty nasty divorce. Once again it seems that all roads lead to Vienna – the preferred banking capital for the unsavoury deals of the East. Over the past year, Firtash has been working to consolidate all his assets, including RosUkrEnergo as well as the Hungarian gas company EMFESZ under one conglomerate called Grupo DF (GDF) to prepare for a couple of IPOs. However, the divorce might blow the roof off the deal, and could potential bring some dirty laundry out to air. The FT reports:

But a family feud could challenge Mr Firtash’s bold plans. In a Financial Times interview, Maria Firtash said she would seek a 50 per cent interest in the businesses, or equal compensation, through litigation. She claims to have played a major role in setting up the businesses. Ms Firtash, who is 51, was in her mid-30s when she met Mr Firtash in the early 1990s and nearly a decade older than Mr Firtash. She said they initially worked together in what was largely her business. Later she promoted Mr Firtash to commercial director of her business and married him in 1996, she said. “Later I gave him legal rights over many of these businesses. I had licences and traded in gas. We traded in foot products, traded in many things. This was our joint work,” she said. The mother of two has challenged a divorce settlement that she signed almost two years ago. The package is said to be valued at tens of millions of dollars. She claims not to have received full compensation and argues that the settlement was not legally sound to begin with. The former couple have clashed in Ukrainian courts. On May 11, Kiev’s Pechersky district court ruled the divorce settlement agreement non-binding. Mr Firtash is expected to appeal. Ms Firtash pledged to fight to the highest jurisdiction to gain control over half of the assets. “I will file lawsuits in all countries,” she said.