Head of Samara region helps Gazprom to outplay rival organization

Head of Samara region helps Gazprom to outplay rival organization
Nikolay Merkushkin Photo: Anatoly Zhdanov / Kommersant

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) filed a case against Nikolay Merkushkin, employees of Gazprom, Ministry of Energy, Housing and Communal Services of Samara region.

The FAS initiated a case on the fact of violation of competition on the gas transportation market in the Samara region. Law enforcers suspect Head of the Samara region Nikolay Merkushkin, regional officials of the Ministry of Energy and Housing and Communal Services, as well as employees of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz LLC.

The antimonopoly case was launched following a complaint from Srednevolzhskaya Gazovaya Kompaniya (SVGK LLC). In this complaint, the company pointed out to the violation of competition, allowed by regional authorities, who in fact lobbied the interests of Gazprom’s subsidiary in the region.

The FAS established that since 2010, the Government of the Samara region and representatives of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz LLC have collaborated under an agreement. According to this agreement, the major gas consumers from SVGK LLC are transferred to the gas distribution network of Gazprom’s subsidiary.

In addition, in 2011, Governor Merkushin, together with Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, approved adjustments to the scheme of gas supply and gasification of the region without the participation and consent of the SVGK and other independent owners of gas networks. The company, which can be considered the victim, filed comments and complaints to the Ministry of Energy, Housing and Communal Services in the region, but officials ignored them.

"Such actions of the authorities in the region and groups of Gazprom PJSC can force Srednevolzhskaya Gazovaya Kompaniya to leave the market," the FAS noted.

The first trial is scheduled for February 3, 2017.

It should be noted that, according to the Petersburg Policy and Minchenko Consulting experts, Head of the Samara region Nikolay Merkushin is listed as an underdog in the annual ranking of Russian governors. Moreover, the head of the region has already drawn the attention of the FAS. In 2013, the Antimonopoly Service initiated a case against the head of the region for violating part 1 of Art. 15 of the Law of July 26, 2006 № 135-FZ "On Protection of Competition" and Art. 15 of the Law of December 28, 2009 № 381-FZ "On the basis of state regulation of commercial activities in the Russian Federation." FAS pointed to the fact that after becoming the governor of the Samara region in 2012, Merkushkin had started to eagerly protect the interests of local producers of alcoholic beverages. The so-called additional ‘voluntary’ certification of alcohol from other regions was introduced to apply pressure on the commercial networks. In addition, stores were to establish a higher mark-up on imported vodka and allocate more shopping space for local brands. Merkushkin’s people simply revoked the licenses of the retailers, who were reluctant to comply with those demands. As suspected by FAS, the governor had personal interest, providing a clear support for Samara enterprises producing alcoholic drinks. Then the case started to drag and was eventually forgotten. At the very least, no official reports about it have been published.

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