It’s all gas: Mystery man fakes deal in Ukraine
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ANDREW E KRAMER
For two months, Jordi Sarda Bonvehi negotiated with Ukrainian officials on behalf of a Spanish utility company about participating in a $1.1 billion investment fund to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the Black Sea.
On Monday, he took part in a signing ceremony for the deal overseen by the prime minister in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.
The only problem is that the utility company, Gas Natural Fenosa, has never heard of him.
"Gas Natural has not signed any contract to invest in an LNG plant project in Ukraine, nor is it leading any consortium whatsoever," the company said in a statement soon after the ceremony. "Gas Natural Fenosa has nothing under study in this regard, nor does it have representatives working in Ukraine on this issue."
Ukrainian officials have now conceded that Bonvehi, if that is indeed his real name, is certainly not a representative of Gas Natural.
The man's motive for signing the agreement was still unclear Thursday, though it did not appear that he benefited financially.
"We never doubted he was authentic," Vladislav Kaskiv, the director of the Ukrainian state investment agency, who signed the document with the man, said. Kaskiv was reportedly initially shocked by Gas Natural's denial.
The agency had harboured no suspicions, Kaskiv said, because Bonvehi, a bald man with a goatee, had regularly showed up for talks over two months, once even traveling to Yalta on the Black Sea, far from the capital, for a meeting about the investment fund.
At the signing ceremony in Kiev, however, the man had appeared nervous and spoke often on his cellphone. Soon afterward, the Spanish-speaking man brushed past journalists who tried to speak to him.
Kaskiv missed a cabinet meeting this week and said he was "disappointed" by the confusion. A phone number Kaskiv provided for Bonvehi was not answered Thursday.
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