Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, left, and Energy
Minister Yuri Boiko, second right, talk as Vladislav
Kaskiv, right, the head of Ukraine's state investment
agency, and a man the state investment agency identified as
Jordi Sarda Bonvehi, second left, sign what the government
said was an agreement to build a liquefied natural gas
terminal in Ukraine. REUTERS/Stringer
Ukraine admitted it had signed a $1.1 billion gas
terminal deal with an unauthorised man it thought was acting
for Gas Natural Fenosa, while the Spanish company denied he was
its representative and said there was no contract.
Vladislav Kaskiv, head of Ukraine's state investment agency,
signed the deal in Kiev on Monday in front of Prime Minister
Mykola Azarov and the energy minister.
Gas Natural quickly denied the deal, which would have formed
two-party consortium with Kiev to build a liquefied natural
gas (LNG) terminal on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, a project
Kiev hailed as cutting dependence on pipeline gas from
After the company said the executive named by Kiev as its
signatory had not even been there, the Ukrainian agency
revised its statement to identify the man as Jordi Sarda
Today, the investment agency official in charge of the LNG
project said Bonvehi had been a middleman in Ukraine's talks
with Gas Natural.
"He (Bonvehi) was organising the visit of (Gas Natural)
representatives. Unfortunately, for technical reasons,
company representatives did not come," the official, Vitaly
Demyanyuk said, adding that Bonvehi then signed the agreement
"He expected the company would (later) confirm his powers (to
sign the contract)," Demyanyuk said.
Gas Natural denied on Wednesday it had given any mandate for
a deal in Ukraine, reiterating its Monday statement that it
was not even studying anything along the lines of an LNG
terminal in the country.
"Gas Natural Fenosa is sending a formal notice to the person
who, according to media reports, seems to have claimed to
represent the company at an event that took place in Kiev
last Monday," the company said in an emailed statement on
"This person does not represent the company, therefore Gas
Natural Fenosa reserves the right to take such legal action
as may be appropriate once the details of the situation have
Barcelona-based Gas Natural is a leading international gas
and electricity company with a presence in 25 countries. It
does not have any business in Ukraine.
Ukraine's Demyanyuk declined to elaborate any further on the
incident and did not say whether the agency had known Bonvehi
was not empowered to sign the deal.
In addition to public embarrassment, the setback leaves
Ukraine once again looking for investors in the project at a
time when its budget deficit is ballooning and its economy is
suffering from the euro zone troubles.
"This was most likely a result of gross negligence on part of
(Ukrainian) officials," a source close to the government
When asked about the failed deal, a government official gave
Reuters a mobile telephone number he said belonged to
Bonvehi. A man answering the phone identified himself as
Bonvehi and said he had signed the deal although he had not
been authorised to do so.
"I thought I could sign it and then settle it with the
company," he said.
Speaking in imperfect Russian, he declined to elaborate
further or say which company he represented.
Reuters could not independently establish the identity of the
man, who said he was in Barcelona. In a second telephone
conversation in Spanish, he declined to answer questions over
the phone and said he could meet with a reporter on Thursday.
State investment agency chief Kaskiv said Ukraine would press
ahead with the project regardless.
"In any case, the Spanish company's possible refusal to take
part in the project will not be critical," he said.
Initially he had said Gas Natural would have a 75 percent
stake in the consortium and the former Soviet republic would
own the remaining 25 percent
The LNG terminal would allow Ukraine to import gas from
suppliers in the Caspian and the Gulf at a price much lower
than that charged by Russia's Gazprom.
Ukraine's reliance on gas coming by pipeline from Russia has
been a source of repeated friction between the two countries
and many Ukrainians view it as an unacceptable instrument of
continued influence by Moscow.