The vast Vostok project consists of developing new oil fields in northern Siberia. Plans include building 15 new towns for 400,000 workers. Rosneft expects oil production from Vostok to be on the scale of the entire North Sea.
MME is run by veteran Pakistani oil trader Murtaza Lakhani, who lives in the UK. The Singapore-based company donated half a million pounds to the Conservatives in November 2019 through its UK subsidiary, Mercantile & Maritime UK Ltd, which Lakhani also owns and controls.
Vitol, meanwhile, recruited former Conservative minister Alan Duncan in 2020.
Rosneft‘s Western Allies
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy sources have suggested Kwarteng has not spoken out on the deal because MME is not a ‘British’ company – despite its UK subsidiary and the donation of the Conservative Party. Companies must be registered in the UK in order to make political donations.
A department spokesperson dodged the question, telling openDemocracy, “While this is ultimately a business issue, we welcome the growing number of organizations and governments joining the entire international community to isolate Russia, both diplomatically and financially”.
Labor MP Chris Bryant told openDemocracy: “It just doesn’t pass the detection test. I’m beginning to wonder if this sort of shenanigans explains the government’s appalling slowness in sanctioning Putin’s oligarchs.
The Conservative Party did not respond to inquiries.