Photo credit: Marian Ilie / Mediafax Foto
Gabriel Comănescu is a former electrical officer in the Romanian Navy who owns one of the country’s most important oil drilling companies, Grup Servicii Petroliere. In 2009 the company landed a US$ 270 million contract with Russian natural gas giant Gazprom for an offshore gas pipeline in the Black Sea. Comănescu has a fortune estimated by Forbes at over €500 million (about $580 million).
Leaked Malta business registry documents show Comănescu owns shares in 26 Maltese companies. This comes on top of six British Virgin Islands companies revealed in last year’s Panama Papers leak. Three of Comănescu’s Maltese companies were involved in suspicious transactions that have been investigated by Romanian prosecutors and tax authorities.
In 2005, his flagship company, Grup Servicii Petroliere, bought six drilling platforms for $100 million from the Vienna-based oil company OMV. OCCRP partner RISE Project reported at the time that Comănescu’s hidden partner was a director at OMV’s local subsidiary, OMV Petrom.
In 2008, three of the drilling platforms–Prometeu, Jupiter and Saturn–were sold for $96 million to three Maltese companies, in a deal that was investigated by prosecutors, who later abandoned their probe. The Maltese registry documents in the Paradise Papers leak now reveal that those companies were owned by Comănescu.
Comănescu did not respond to reporters’ requests for comment, but in a statement to local media, he said that he had moved his operations to Malta because it was easier to receive financing there than in Romania.
For more detail on Comănescu and the Paradise Papers (in Romanian), see this story by OCCRP’s partner in Romania, RISE Project.