Real estate
Business 09/03/2022

Lukoil oligarch's extensive Barcelona footprint

Vagit Alekperov, president of Lukoil, has investments in Plaça Francesc Macià and in the city's port

3 min
Vladimir Putin gathered at the Kremlin about thirty oligarchs on the day he announced the invasion of Ukraine. In the front row was Vagit Alekperov.

Last February 24 in the morning, a few hours after Vladimir Putin issued a televised message announcing the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president gathered about thirty oligarchs in the Kremlin. Despite the face masks, the photos revealed looks of tension among the attendees. One of them was Vagit Alekperov (see above), who, seated in the front row, listened to Putin's speech.

Alekperov has had many dealings in Catalonia, which he has visited on several occasions. He meets the conditions of the classic Russian oligarch: in 1991 he was deputy minister for Gas and Oil and that same year, after the USSR collapsed, he went on to lead Lukoil, a group born from the merger of three public companies. Until the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, it was the second Russian company by sales volume. Currently, this billionaire is the largest shareholder in Lukoil, where he controls 28% of the capital. Surprisingly, and despite its proximity to Putin, this Russian company has made the most clear calls for a halt to the invasion of Ukraine: last week it demanded "an immediate end to the armed conflict" and a resolution through a "negotiated process".

Vagit Alekperov has several investments in Barcelona. He was one of the fortunes that financed the remodelling of the building at Francesc Macià 10 in Barcelona (formerly known as the Winterthur building) to convert it into luxury apartments. The project was carried out by Squircle, a venture capital firm that also manages the building. To finance it, Squircle set up a fund based in Luxembourg, and Alekperov and his family were some of the people who invested in this fund, as advanced by eldiario.es. Even so, it has "a minority participation" which Squircle does not give but some sources claim is around 25%.

Alekperov is one of the people who invested in the fund that converted the Winterthur building into luxury housing.

Investments in the port of Barcelona

A few years earlier, in 2012, this same billionaire went to the port of Barcelona to attend the inauguration of a new petroleum products terminal. This investment was a joint enterprise between the Catalan petrol station company Meroil and Lukoil (which transferred funds through Litasco, an investment company in Geneva). This terminal consists of 13 tanks with a capacity for 360,000 cubic metres and was inaugurated by then Catalan president Artur Mas.

Artur Mas and Vagit Alekperov, in 2012, inaugurating the oil terminal at the port of Barcelona which Lukoil created alongside Meroil.

It doesn't end here: Alekperov is also behind Salamanca Nine, the company that manages Barcelona's Marina Port Vell through a public concession. As uncovered by El Confidencial in 2014, a complex tangle of companies concealed the presence of the oligarch as one of the main investors (and beneficiaries) of this concession, which does not expire until 2036.

In addition to all of this, Alekperov also had his yacht (Galactica Super Nova) moored at Marina Port Vell when the invasion of Ukraine began. The following weekend he rushed to send it off to Montenegro, perhaps fearing that the authorities would seize it. This Tuesday Roman Abramovich, still the owner of Chelsea FC, followed suit: his yacht (which is named My Solaris) was in Barcelona until he decided to have it leave for a destination unknown, possibly seeking a less risky country for his interests.

Frequent presence of yachts

Russian megayachts visit Barcelona frequently. One of them even has a mooring: Alisher Usmanov, a metallurgy magnate and prominent member of the oligarch blacklist recently published by the European Commission), has a mooring in Marina Port Vell, according to Port of Barcelona president Damià Calvet. It has not been seized because it is not clear that there is a need to do so. "We are waiting to see how we should act." Calvet said last week .

One of the difficulties is that, although the true ownership of the ships may be known, it is more complicated to prove it legally, since they are often held by companies in tax havens that make it difficult to track down the owners. This newspaper has confirmed that a yacht owned by Sergey Chemezov, former KGB agent and current CEO of Rostec, is still moored in Barcelona (Valerie), as is Andrey Molchanov's, majority shareholder of the real estate giant LSR (this one is named Aurora).

These yacths, like Abramovich's was, are at Marina Barcelona 92, a company dedicated to the repair and maintenance of superyachts and which has nothing to do with Marina Port Vell. However, the majority shareholder of Marina Barcelona 92 is Squircle Capital, the same company that remodelled the building at Francesc Macià 10. The people with whom this newspaper has spoken assure that this is just a coincidence and that the fund with which Squircle has a stake in Marina Barcelona 92 has no capital from any Russian investor.

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