Sunday, February 20, 2022

Nord Stream 2: the curious deals of the mecklenburgian foundation for climate protection

 The state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north of Germany has created a foundation for climate protection quite accurately one year ago. This foundation, the Stiftung Klima- und Umweltschutz MV, is seen as remedy to handle possible sanctions against operators and involved companies. However the object of the foundation and the backers are obscure. Recently the foundation purchased shares of a limited shipping company, the MAR Agency GmbH. The goals and intentions of this company are more than obscure. Traces lead to puppet-masters of Nord Stream 2, writes WELT:

Siegfried Kempe can look back on an adventurous life. The man from Mecklenburg had already sailed the seven seas as a sailor in GDR times. Later he maneuvered tugboats into the port of Rostock. In August 2018 it was over, retirement at the age of 63.

The local magazine "Der Warnemünder" paid tribute to the captain a. D. as someone who was a very educated man and gave good advice for retirement. But then everything turned out differently, Kempe was suddenly needed again. He should have a role in a play set on the grand stage of world politics.

The sailor is now an actor in the endless drama about Russian natural gas, American sanctions and German fickleness. However, hardly anyone knows, because Kempe acts behind the scenes. It's about the state-owned company Gazprom and its controversial pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

The commissioning of the line, which is now almost complete, was and is in jeopardy: First by punitive measures under the aegis of Donald Trump, now by Vladimir Putin's demonstration of power at the Ukrainian border.

In order to save the project, the state government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the Gazprom subsidiary Nord Stream 2 AG (NS2), which is responsible for the pipeline construction, have devised a sophisticated construct. And the name Kempe appears in it.

At the beginning of January 2021, the MV Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation was established. Equipped with Russian money, it is supposed to protect the pipeline from sanctions.

The main actors are SPD prime minister Manuela Schwesig and her predecessor and party friend Erwin Sellering, who directs the fortunes of the foundation as chairman of the board, as well as NS2 boss Matthias Warnig and Gerhard Schröder, president of the board of directors.

The East German Warnig, once employed by the Stasi as an industrial spy in the Federal Republic, is a Putin confidant, as is former Chancellor Schröder. Schwesig and Sellering are considered reliable Gazprom advocates.

Sellering recently told the news portal T-Online that the foundation is about "countering attempts by a great power to intimidate people that violate international law."

Environmental groups, on the other hand, speak of fraudulent labeling. They refer to the statutes of the foundation. It states: The entity should “participate primarily in the completion of Nord Stream 2”.

FDP parliamentary group leader Alexander Graf Lambsdorff describes the foundation as a “front organization”. In fact, instead of NS2, it is subcontracting the pipeline project to service providers and subcontractors. They rent port areas, buy goods and send ships out to sea.

The companies do not have to fear penalties for possible violations of sanctions - the state has put up an umbrella over them via the foundation.

When the foundation was founded, Andrij Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, spoke of an "incredible gas spectacle from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania" that reminded him "of cheating and shell games". Transparency International Germany sees a “clear dependency relationship” between the foundation and NS2.

From the point of view of money laundering compliance, the construction is "not only daring, but abusive". Because of the possible violation of applicable laws, Transparency has now turned on Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) and his cabinet colleague Nancy Faeser (SPD) from the Interior Department.

The foundation is even allowed to invest in companies as part of the pipeline project. The media has been speculating about such a commitment for months. WELT AM SONNTAG found what they were looking for.

The foundation has acquired a 49 percent stake in a maritime service provider, MAR Agency GmbH, based in Rostock. The rest is up to Siegfried Kempe, the retired captain. According to the commercial register, he is also the sole managing director.

The Rostock local giant and the foundation nurtured by the most powerful gas exporter in the world have quietly entered into a joint venture that forms an ideal platform for discreet business.

Neither partner wants to talk about the background. He is "currently not available" for an interview, says the board of directors of Sellering. Kempe is also closed to WELT AM SONNTAG: "I'm not the type who wants to be involved with the media."

However, the north-east German is curious and agrees to a five-minute telephone conversation. He characterizes the MAR Agency as a "completely normal shipping agency".

When the topic of the foundation's role as a shareholder came up, he reacted irritably: "I can't confirm or deny anything here. If you have any information, that is your business and not mine.”

Kempe also does not want to say anything about a visit to Hamburg on March 9, 2021. At that time, he appeared at the Bergstraße notary's office and presented a purchase contract there - which shows that he had just acquired the MAR Agency, which was already in liquidation, from an entrepreneur on the island of Rügen.

Subsequently, certificate no. 808/2021 JB was drawn up in German and English. This was believed to be the first step in a later deal with the foundation.

The seat of the MAR Agency was relocated from Sassnitz to Rostock. Since then, the "holding and operation of ships" has been part of the business purpose, as has the participation "in other companies of all kinds" and the establishment and operation of "branches at home and abroad".

135 days later, the decisive course was set: According to a list of shareholders from July 23, 2021, sole owner Kempe sold almost half of his GmbH shares to the Stiftung Klima- und Umweltschutz MV for an unknown price.

According to research by this newspaper, the MAR Agency was and is in connection with a large number of ships. This is revealed by logs of entries into the port of Rostock. Among other things, she acted as a broker in connection with the "EEMS Duisburg" and the "Lena H" - as well as the Russian "Murman", a freighter that was on a US sanctions list.

For example, it is known that the "EEMS Duisburg" brought stones from Rostock to Sassnitz. The material is used to stabilize the natural gas pipes on the seabed.

The GmbH is based in Kempe's residential building in Rostock's old town. Directly opposite the Katharinenstift, which now houses a university, there is a narrow, three-story house in which four people live. It was recently renovated, the yellow facade glows in the sun.

You won't find a bell for the MAR Agency, there is only one mailbox. Kempe is not at home, but he says later on the phone: "I'm not afraid of sanctions, and I'm not affected by sanctions either." He also asserts: "I have nothing to do with the pipeline."

Because Kempe wants to give so little information about his company's business, the question arises: does someone else control the company's decisions? Does the foundation pull the strings, is Kempe a straw man? What is striking: For the MAR Agency, there is no record in the transparency register of who is the "beneficial owner".

The foundation itself knows the fine art of concealment. It has set up a "profitable business operation" run by a knowledgeable manager. According to the statutes, this CEO is appointed by the head of the foundation, Sellering, but at the suggestion of NS2.

But who is this person? So a secret is kept. All that is known is that it is said to be a Russian who resides in Hamburg.

The business operations of the foundation are not only involved in the MAR Agency, they have also acquired a special freighter: the 93 meter long "Blue Ship", which offers space for a 50-strong crew. This became public when a US government official informed the Bloomberg news agency in November last year.

An industry expert interviewed by WELT AM SONNTAG put the purchase price in the low double-digit millions. In addition, there are operating costs of around 100,000 euros per year and, depending on the operation, high fuel costs. This shows that there is a lot of money at stake.

The previous owner of the “Blue Ship” was Stone Marine Engineering from Chioggia in the Venice Lagoon. If you call there, you are dealing with a man at the other end of the line who is willing to provide information. He says the contact person at the time for this business, a certain Tamara M., no longer works for the foundation. That's why he has no contact information.

Research on the person provides an interesting insight: according to her own information on the career portal LinkedIn, Tamara M. has never worked for the foundation. Rather, she introduces herself in her profile as a procurement and contract manager at Nord Stream 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment