Sveriges Radio: Former KGB agent reveals Lukashenka-controlled oil smuggling from Belarus to EU

Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Uladzimir Syamashka. Phot.

Andrei Molchan, a former officer of the Belarusian KGB, claims he has documents confirming the facts of state-controlled smuggling petroleum products from Belarus to Western Europe. He has handed these documents to Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio).

As it follows from his ID, Molchan worked for the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) from 2000 to 2010 and rose to the rank of Major. In 2012, Molchan asked for political asylum in Sweden, but the appeal was turned down because the Swedish authorities failed to see any evidence of his being persecuted. According to Molchan, he had to retire as he did not want to participate in the political repression. After his leaving the KGB, he was stalked and beaten, the man says.

Documents seen by Swedish Radio’s Ekot news desk show how Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko (Uladzimir Syamashka), the right-hand man of President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka), personally acted to make sure the smuggling could continue, the Swedish investigative journalists believe.

The papers in question come from an investigation carried out by the Belarusian customs in 2007, when Belarus and Russia had agreed on a customs fee for exports of petroleum products that come from Russian oil.

“It was a simple setup. Belarus was allowed to buy petrol and oil from Russia at a reduced price; but if it wanted to sell the petroleum products on to the EU it had to pay tax to Russia. In order to avoid the taxes one company relabeled the petroleum products and smuggled them out of the country under a false description,” the article reads.

The publications about such schemes appeared in Russian and Belarusian media in 2010-2012. The investigation into the issue caused the Moscow-Minsk oil conflict in 2012.

“When the goods trains were stopped by the Belarusian customs, and the exporter risked being charged with exporting petroleum products under a false description, President Lukashenko stepped in. After the export company appealed to the president he asked his Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Semashko, to look into the issue. Swedish Radio Ekot has read Vladimir Semashko’s exchange of letters with the customs authority. It shows that the customs committee wrote to the deputy prime minister and showed him the proof that smuggling had been committed. The conclusion of the customs authority was crystal clear: Petroleum products have been illegally transported under the wrong description,” Swedish Radio reports.

But the top official seems to have intentionally disregarded the information from the customs. Moreover, he is reported to have cancelled sending any samples to a Russian laboratory. Instead, he ordered not to tax the goods. Mr Semashko must have acted on order from President Lukashenko, analyst Wojciech Konończuk of the Poland-based Centre for Eastern Studies suggested after studying the documents provided by Swedish Radio.

Then petroleum products were taken to harbours in Estonia, where the cargo was again given a new label. And when it was sent to Antwerp, it was reportedly under the description ‘Russian unleaded gasoline’.

Andrei Molchan was ordered to send all the documents on the case to Minsk, but he managed to make copies of them and even retain some original papers. The former KGB officer states that he did not publish the documents before because he had fears.

The Belarusian leader and the Deputy Prime Minister have refused to make any comment on the situation to Swedish Radio Ekot.

Read the full story here, via Daniel Öhman, Daniel Velasco, Per Shapiro (Sveriges Radio)

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