Oil refinery trouble: Museveni pushed into tight corner
A shadowy international company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a major international tax haven is high up on the list of companies government is courting to invest in the $ 4 billion oil refinery, investigations by The Independent have found. While tax havens are legal, many companies that operate there tend to be shrouded in secrecy and engage in doubtful business dealings. The company the government is negotiating with to build the oil refinery, for example, seems to be involved in unclear businesses.
I n a major investigation, The Independent reveals that the company is registered in a tax haven, and at its forefront is a Nigerian of unclear identity, who goes by the name Henry Henry on the social networking service, Linkedin.
While the company that has expressed interest in the deal is called Burj Petroleum. There is no known company that is called just Burj Petroleum.
But there are two entities—Burj Petroleum International Corporation (BVI), which has a website—www.bur – jpetroleum.org—and maintains offices in Dubai-UAE and London. The other entity is Burj Petroleum Africa Ltd, whose directors say they are based in Dubai-UAE, London and even Nigeria.
The company on the ministry documents is called Burj Petroleum, which doesn’t exist.
Critics have pointed to where the company is registered as a major concern for transparency and prudent sector insiders say by dealing with such an unclear company, President Yoweri Museveni is showing how he has been boxed into a tight corner and is struggling to find a serious investor for the refinery project that only two years ago, major Russian, Chinese and South Korean banks and companies worth billions of dollars were fearlessly fighting for.
There has been a lot of talk about how Ministry of Energy officials are reviewing hundreds of expressions of interests from multiple companies. However, according to an official list from the Ministry of Energy, a copy of which The Independent has seen, as of September 30, a total of 18 companies had expressed interest in the project.
According to the list The Independent has, seven of the 18 are Chinese, 3 are American, one is South Korean and two are Japanese. Of these, three companies appear serious in terms of the finances they control and refining experience. Burj Petroleum is not one of the serious ones.
But The Independent picked interest in Burj Petroleum after seeing correspondence between the company and government. Government officials at the Energy Ministry listed it among the 18 companies. It is putting in a joint bid with China Huarong Asset Management (HK) Co Limited according to both the list and the correspondence with government.
On the Website of Burj Petroleum International Corporation, which is registered in BVI, the company notes that it is “engaged in the sourcing, marketing and distribution of physical commodities on a global basis, taking advantage of opportunities in niche markets in Turkey, North West Europe, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, Baltic Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Guinea and Singapore”.
It also claims it was founded in 1995. China Huarong Asset Management (HK) Co Limited, on the other hand was founded in 2012. While Burj Petroleum says it was founded in 1995, our investigations show that its website was only registered in 2014 by a property consultant-cum company officer named Shahriar Lak of 97B Willow Vale, London. Lak is the registrant, administrator and technical con – tact of the company’s site.
Away from Lak, the company has no refining experience at all. On its website, it says it has a license to construct a refinery in Hamriyah, UAE, Basra, IRAQ and is currently in the feasibility stage of this endeavor. The refinery will process 20,000bpd heavy crude, and refined products will be delivered to the local market.
It also notes that it has a processing agreement with some refineries and can get allocation with some OPEC countries and off OPEC for producing oil products and will sign processing agreement with another refinery. With government struggling to find an investor, Burj Petroleum threw a bait— financing the refinery 100 % and giving government carried interest of 20 % for free—which appears to have thrown government off balance.
The Independent has seen a letter written on behalf of the Ministry of Energy Permanent Secretary, Kabagambe Kalisa and copied to the refinery project manager, where government is inviting the company for negotiations and seeking clarification on its interest.