Nuclear giant Energoatom’s accounts blocked over long-running debt
Authorities blocked the accounts of state-owned nuclear giant Energoatom on Oct. 6 over a long-running debt of almost $5 million (Hr 127 million), the company reported on its website.
Energoatom operates four nuclear power plants across the country and produces more than 50% of the country’s electricity. The company said the government’s actions threaten the energy supply.
The nuclear giant has owed Ukrainian-American company Ukrelektrowatt less than $100,000 (Hr 2.5 million) for nuclear fuel since the early 2000s, but that debt ballooned to $5 million (Hr 127 million) after penalties and various court decisions.
The state-run company contested the legality of the move, calling it “well-targeted sabotage.”
“Sequestration of Energoatom’s accounts really threatens to ensure the necessary measures for the safe operation of nuclear power units,” the statement read.
However, energy expert Oleksandr Kharchenko said that may be an exaggeration. “It’s not something special for them,” he said. “There are no more risks than usual.”
Old debt, shady business
Energoatom already had its accounts blocked in 2016 over the same debt. The minister of justice at the time, Pavlo Petrenko, forcibly transferred over $830,000 to Ukrelektrowatt to settle the situation, according to investigative outlet Bihus.info.
However, Ukrelektrowatt’s situation raised suspicion because it wasn’t conducting business at the time, according to Bihus.info, and the company’s registration raised doubts over its legality.
According to the open-source database YouControl, the company is registered in an apartment in Dnipro, a city of less than 1 million people located 390 kilometers southeast of Kyiv. Its owner is Volodymyr Lyuty, a football coach and ex-forward of Dnipro football club, which belongs to billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.
Almost 69% of Ukrelektrowatt has been registered with the American company AC Energy Holding from Delaware since the 1990s, but it is impossible to disclose its owners due to the lack of a public registry.
Delaware is a popular American state in which to register shell companies.
Instead of generating a projected net profit of $60 million in 2020, Energoatom posted a net loss of $177 million, anti-graft watchdog StateWatch reported on March 11.
This has been the company’s worst financial result of the past three years. To compare, in 2018, the company made $176 million in net profit and in 2019 — $154 million.
Ukrainian media and watchdog organizations repeatedly wrote about the company’s electricity auctions, where lots were allegedly sold below market price in favor of companies associated with the country’s two most influential oligarchs, Rinat Akhmetov and Kolomoisky.
Most of the electricity was sold to the company United Energy that’s associated with Kolomoisky and D. Trading, owned by Akhmetov, according to the Nashi Groshi investigative project.
On Nov. 13, during an auction, these companies received a 40% discount on the electricity price. Three months later, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) conducted searches at Energoatom amid an investigation on unreasonable electricity prices.
Energoatom stated back then that the company is open for an investigation and “ready to cooperate with detectives in every possible way.”