The government “must guarantee” that the gas funds will not benefit the Russian oligarch

A Russian billionaire’s ties to a gas exploration company involving Origin Energy have sparked calls from the head of a federal parliamentary inquiry for a freeze on taxpayer funding to fossil fuel projects in the Territory’s Beetaloo Basin. North.

Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg is on Australia’s list of people under economic sanction. He owns a stake in Lamesa Holdings, the main shareholder of Falcon Oil and Gas, which is the junior partner in a joint venture with the Australian company Origin Energy.

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg is on Australia’s economic sanctions list against Russians linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime. Credit:Andrei Rudakov

The joint venture is exploring gas properties in the remote basin, which the federal government says is critical to its plans to expand the country’s fossil fuel production and achieve a “gas-fired” economic recovery after the pandemic. Over $220 million in public funds has been committed to help the industry grow in the region.

“There must be a suspension of all funding to Beetaloo until it is known how the sanctions will be applied,” said Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who chairs the Senate inquiry into the development. of the region.

“We need a solid guarantee that this Russian billionaire will not receive any dividends from the Beetaloo basin.”

Origin executive Tim O’Grady told a hearing on Friday that the company’s Beetaloo exploration joint venture had “nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.”

“We have no relationship. There is interest from Mr. Vekselberg but it’s passive interest,” Mr. O’Grady said.

Origin Energy said neither Lamesa nor Mr. Vekselberg were directly involved in the Beetaloo project. Maxim Mayorets, Mr. Vekselberg’s representative on Falcon’s board, has agreed to step down.

Origin contacted government officials last week for clarification on the effect of the sanctions on Mr. Vekselberg and is awaiting guidance.

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