Malta’s lax company oversight enabled the empire of a Romanian millionaire with Russian links

Gabriel Valentin Comănescu, an oil and gas mogul with Russian ties, has 26 active companies registered in Malta

 

With a superyacht valued at $50 million and a Russian-financed oil and gas offshore drilling empire spread out across the globe, millionaire Gabriel Valentin Comănescu is often referred to as one of the wealthiest Romanians in the world.

Comănescu’s fortune was built off a major privatisation deal in 2004 and the setting up of the Luxembourg-registered company he runs, Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP). GSP’s money began making its way to Malta in 2007 when Comănescu set up GSP Drilling Ltd.

GSP Drilling Ltd was then used as a shareholding company for eight other companies Comănescu set up between 2007 and 2011.

In January 2008, GSP Shipping Ltd was also set up, which in turn was used as a shareholding company for another 11 companies set up between 2009 and 2011.

Seven of GSP’s mobile offshore drilling rigs are linked with Maltese companies bearing the same name – GSP Atlas, GSP Fortuna, GSP Jupiter, GSP Orizont, GSP Prometeu, GSP Saturn and GSP Uranus.

GSP Drilling Ltd and GSP Shipping Ltd list Minodora Covor, a senior economist at Comănescu’s Upetrom Group, as sole director, with Comănescu listed as a sole shareholder for each one.

A look at both companies’ filings at the Malta Business Registry (MBR) shows that GSP Drilling Ltd last filed audited accounts in 2014, while GSP Shipping Ltd has never filed audited accounts since it was set up 14 years ago.

As previously reported by Romania’s RISE Project, an official partner of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Comănescu had used these 26 Maltese companies to shift the bulk of profits and assets owned by GSP to exploit Malta’s favourable tax regime.

Comănescu’s Maltese companies, used to process massive contracts signed with Russia’s Gazprom Group and Austria’s OMV, have cost the Romanian State around €30 million in tax revenue it would have generated had the Romanian millionaire paid dues in his own country, according to the report.

Malta’s tax regime is highly accommodating to companies with no physical presence in the country but are nonetheless registered here, offering tax breaks that lower corporate tax to 5% – the country is often referred to as a tax haven.

The Russian link

According to a series of books titled ‘The Kremlin Playbook’, which covers Russia’s influence across Central and Eastern Europe, Gazprom’s inroads into the Romanian energy sector largely came through two contracts signed between GSP and Gazprom in 2009 and 2014.

In 2009, Gazprom signed a subcontracting service agreement with GSP valued at €270 million. Five years later, GSP secured another Gazprom contract worth around €265 million to build a part of an undersea fuel pipeline for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

Besides being investigated by Romanian authorities for his profit-shifting activities in Malta, Comănescu also got into hot water because public funds were involved in the €265 million deal through a State bank guarantee amounting to around €68.9 million.

Two years after the Sochi Olympic Games, GSP (the mother company) had its accounts blocked by an agency under the remit of the Romanian finance ministry after a court ruled that the €30 million in VAT Comănescu owed the State must be paid. The case remains ongoing following appeals and is scheduled for another hearing at the end of this month.

                           
                               
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Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

As the late Daphne Caruana Galizia said there are crooks everywhere. Including foreigners.
May Daphne rest in peace and always remain in our prayers.

Ġwanni Fenek
Ġwanni Fenek
1 month ago

Nattiraw il-ħmieġ biss qisu.

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
1 month ago

Failure to draw audited accounts since 2014 necessarily means that no Tax Return to Malta Commissioner for Revenue was submitted

carlos
1 month ago

U l-haddiem ihallas ghall-korruzzjoni. Kif ma jisthix dan il-gvern korrott jilghabha ta gvern tal-haddiem?

carlos
1 month ago

META SE JQUM MIR-RAQDA L-POPLU MALTI, META JKUN TARD WISQ? IL-HALLELIN TA’ FLUS IL-POPLU RASHOM MISTRIEHA U META MA JKUNX BAQA X’JISURQU JDABBRU RASHOM.

Saviour Farrugia
Saviour Farrugia
1 month ago
Reply to  carlos

lol minn tista tafda?

carlos
1 month ago

Nobody, but that’what the people want – corruption.

makjavel
makjavel
1 month ago

Imbaghad jaqbdu ma qassis li gej min familja li li flus li ghamlet ghamlithom bl-gharaq ta xbijnom u l-ghaqal. Il paruccani ta dan il-qassis jemnu lilu , kien hemm iktar ifahruh min rahal ta ftit mijjiet milli gabar Muscat il belt . Din hadma tal FIAU u l AG biex jaghttu xi haga tintenn sentina li se tinkixef? Tghid ghalek miet l-avukat Muscat? Waqfilhom ghax kollox gideb li qed jghidu, u tawh kedda jew ghar ? Ma jarawx fejn marru il flus tal Marigold Foundation , mhux hbewhom gol Bank ?

Herman Meilak
Herman Meilak
1 month ago
Reply to  makjavel

Kif iddecidejt wahdek li l-qassis innocenti? U jekk Marsaxlokk hemm hafna jfahhruh ifisser li hu innocenti? Mhux il-qorti tiddeciedi fl-ahhar mill-ahhar?

Francis Darmanin
Francis Darmanin
1 month ago

But they bounced on the Bugibba bucket shops…shouldn’t that balance things out.

Ionica
1 month ago

Hahah richest romanian, under 100 million he is basically average in Romania they have billionaires

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