Prague - Russian oil giant Lukoil has silently gained significant influence over Czech energy security through its acquisitions and contracts made in the last few years.
Currently, state-owned Czech Airlines get half of its fuel for Prague's Ruzyně airport from Lukoil. At the same time, Lukoil also supplies Mošnov airport in Ostrava.
In addition and possibly even more importantly, the Russian giant is linked to companies that provide oil for Czech strategic fuel reserves and is recently trying to get a share in state-owned company Mero which owns and administers both the reserves and the oil pipeline system of the Czech Republic.
Read more: ČR building huge oil reserves
Oil from Russia, with love?
As many other states, the Czech Republic is maintaining own strategic fuel reserves - large quantities of gasoline and oil to be used in case of oil supply disruption.
The state buys fuel for the reserves from middle-men, however Aktuálně.cz has learned from a number of independent sources that some of the traders in fact represent Lukoil.
Members of the parliamentary control committee that deals with the issue of the acquisition of fuel for the reserves agree there are rumors about Lukoil influence, but are reluctant to confirm them as there are no concrete proofs.
„Of course we hear rumors like this, but we have no means to verify them," MP Libor Ježek from the control committee said.
Lobbyists, emissaries and the like
Aktuálně.cz has learned that Lukoil representatives were lobbying Czech politicians via entrepreneur Martin Nejedlý, who can be seen as one of Lukoil's emissaries to the Czech Republic.
Martin Nejedlý is a close associate of influential lobbyist Miroslav Šlouf (for example, Nejedlý's firms are based in offices owned by Šlouf) who has rich connections to the Czech political elite as well as Russian diplomatic circles.
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In September 2007, Nejedlý founded a company named Lukoil Aviation Czech, Russian Lukoil's Czech subsidiary. One month after its foundation, his company was contracted to supply Czech Airlines (ČSA) on Prague's Ruzyně airport with fuel.
Importantly, Nejedlý's friend Aleš Řebíček was Transport Minister at that time. As the minister, Řebíček had influence over who would be in ČSA's supervisory board, and before the contract was signed he met with a Lukoil representative.
In 2009, Nejedlý spent vacations in Řebíček's villa in Tuscany, Italy.
However, Řebíček says he had no part in negotiating the contract and describes his influence over ČSA as merely formal. „This issue is linked to transport, so there is an unwritten agreement that some members of the supervisory board are chosen by Transport Minister. And, as is well-known, a company is not ruled by its supervisory board," Řebíček wrote to Aktuálně.cz in a text message.
ČSA has confirmed that Lukoil has won the tender, becoming ČSA's supplier for Ruzyně airport. The company says that Lukoil was contracted due to the price it offered. However, according to Aktuálně.cz's sources, Nejedlý and Šlouf engaged in intense lobbying on Lukoil's behalf.
Aktuálně.cz asked Nejedlý for an interview, however the businessman did not react. On the other hand, Miroslav Šlouf proved to be more media-friendly - he confirmed that he gives advices to Lukoil, and he was doing so even at the time when the Russian giant was trying to win the ČSA-Ruzyně contract.
„There is no written agreement, but I provide Mr. Nejedlý with advice, estimation, and insight," Šlouf said.
Lukoil did not answer any of the questions asked by Aktuálně.cz.