Efforts to dispel US concerns over suspected Russian influence in a Cypriot fund buying a Lukoil plant in Sicily may be gaining traction with Italian officials, with reports suggesting American resistance may be losing ground after a crucial meeting last week.
According to the Financial Times, executives from oil trader Trafigura had a “positive” meeting with Italian officials who sought clarification from the oil trader about Cypriot firm GOI Energy’s deal to buy a Russian refinery plant in Sicily.
Back in January, Russian oil company Lukoil made a deal to sell its Isab di Priolo refinery to GOI Energy, which would be backed by global supply commodity trader Trafigura based out of Singapore.
GOI Energy, a newly-established brunch of Cypriot private equity group Argus with Greek and Israeli interests, surprised the industry with a €1.5 billion offer that outbid US-based Crossbridge.
GOI Energy drew attention to the fact that its board executives included Chris Damianou, who serves as Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Cyprus
But Rome missed a deadline last month to okay the deal, with energy analysts speculating Washington was behind unofficial calls on the Italian government to probe any possible Russian involvement in GOI Energy.
The Cypriot company previously denied links to Russia, while according to new information in the Financial Times, GOI Energy continued to dismiss the allegations and pointed to an investor pool being “exclusively Greek, Israeli, and Cypriot.”
Last month GOI Energy issued a statement saying neither the company nor its CEO Michael Bobrov, who was involved in Trafigura’s operations in Israel, had connections to Russia.
Trafigura was one of the main traders of Russian crude oil and refined products, but the company quickly distanced itself from Moscow after the war in Ukraine.
The Financial Times cited two Italian officials who were “still worried about some aspects of the transaction.”
But the British business paper also said one official and another person close to GOI Energy said they were “optimistic” about the deal getting approved this week.
It was also reported that GOI Energy drew attention to the fact that its board executives included Chris Damianou, who serves as Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Cyprus.
Damianou, who previously served as CEO of Eurofast Cyprus, a one-stop service provider for foreign investors, became consul of Ukraine in September 2020.
The Cabinet decision assigning Damianou to assist Ukrainian nationals in Nicosia and Famagusta districts was made in June 2019 according to official documents.