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Rosneft, Gunvor, and “Corporate Secrets”

The news of this court ruling allowing Rosneft and Gunvor to remain opaque about their commercial relations is a prime example of Russia’s state capture. It’s no wonder that so many speculate that Gunvor is the biggest siloviki piggy bank.

A Russian court left a veil of secrecy over oil trader Gunvor on Wednesday, rejecting a private shareholder’s lawsuit demanding state oil company Rosneft disclose dealings with the firm. Moscow Arbitration Court Judge Alexei Manenkov ruled disclosure of the information to shareholders was not required under Russian corporate law. Rosneft had said its dealings with Gunvor were a commercial secret. Gunvor handles a third of Russian oil exports and has repeatedly won rights to export a large share of Rosneft’s Urals blend crude in regular tenders by the state owned company, Russia’s largest producer of crude. The company’s co-owner, Gennady Timchenko, has rejected speculations he enjoyed special ties with former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was honourary president of a St Petersburg judo club sponsored by Timchenko. Rosneft’s minority shareholder Alexei Navalny, who brought the suit against Rosneft, also sued to obtain information about Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft’s charity work. The suit was also rejected by the court on Wednesday. Navalny had claimed that shareholders’ rights were violated in both cases. “We want to know where the money is going,” Navalny told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that he would appeal the ruling. Navalny has been involved in opposition politics, running the Moscow division of the liberal Yabloko party until recently. He has been active in other opposition parties and appeared in public political debates. He said the lawsuits against the state companies were not political and he was defending his economic interests.