Head of Ministry of Natural Resources suspected of conflict of interests in distribution of benefits for Novatek

Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy is suspected of a conflict of interest in the granting of benefits and permits to the oil and gas company Novatek, which, in turn, sponsors the organization of the Minister’s wife and mother-in-law.

As Transparency International – Russia Center found out, Novatek and its subsidiaries obtained licenses for the development of large gas fields in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District in the last two years. Moreover, since 2015 the company enjoys a significant benefit in the form of a lower MET rate. At the end of the last year, Sergey Donskoy supported the extension of this privilege until 2030. Already in May 2017, the Minister publicly supported the transfer of Gazprom’s licenses to the holding company for four oil and gas sites in the Yamal Peninsula. The anti-corruptionists also remind that the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Novatek is the former First Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, Denis Khramov.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas company is the general sponsor of the Drevo Zhizni (Tree of Life) festival, organized by the Center for the Development of Childhood and Youth Tvoya Priroda jointly with the Ministry of Natural Resources within the framework of the Year of Ecology. Among the founders of Tvoya Priroda (exists since 2015), there is the wife of Sergey Donskoy, Tatyana Nazarevskaya, and her mother Larisa Nazarevskaya. The Minister’s wife is also the director of the center.

The experts of the Transparency International – Russia Center note that Tvoya Priroda is the key organizer and partner of many activities under the Year of Ecology program, funded from the federal budget.

Thus, the anti-corruptionists suspected the partnership relations between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tvoya Priroda, headed by close relatives in the conflict of interests. In addition, it is noted that “the support of projects managed by Sergey Donskoy’s by Novatek can affect the impartial performance of the Minister’s duties,” which can also mean the conflict of interest.

In this regard, the Transparency International – Russia Center asked the Presidential Council for Combating Corruption and the Prosecutor General’s Office to check Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy for corruption.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Natural Resources promptly responded to the statement of the investigators. Nikolay Gudkov, spokesman for the department, believes that there can be no conflict of interest because the structure of Donskoy’s mother-in-law and wife is an autonomous non-profit organization and “does not engage in commercial activities.”