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President Traian Basescu : Government must be prepared to take over the refinery in Ploiesti

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President Traian Basescu said on Thursday that the Government must be prepared to take over the refinery in Ploiesti, unless Lukoil resumes production on Friday. 

"I am not discussing the 'autochthonous' approaches, only the threat, the pressure put by a leader of the Lukoil company against the prosecutors and the Government of Romania. I believe that such an approach is inadmissible and if tomorrow Lukoil doesn't resume production, I will ask the Government of Romania to be prepared to take over the refinery in Ploiesti, because this went much too far," said the head of state at the Cotroceni Palace. 

He emphasized that the Government must intervene in this case, showing that Lukoil has been running at a loss for five years. 

"We must remember the price at which we privatized it, we will repay the difference, the cost of refurbishment, we will analyze it after noting if the tax evasion and money laundering was worth only 230 million euro or if it was maybe higher. I believe that at this moment the Government of Romania must be prepared to pay the price for which it sold the refinery, to be technically prepared to take over operation and, at the final findings of the illegalities committed by Lukoil, we must discuss comparing the sums found to be fraud with the sums invested by Lukoil in this refinery," said Basescu. 

The head of state maintained that Lukoil representatives are relying on pressure. 

"If they rely on pressure, which seems a Putin-like approach - this is what Putin does in his country, not in a country of the European Union - our behavior must be understood by the Russians and we must act the same. Lukoil cannot say: "I'm closing because I want so; because I have problems with the judiciary, I will close down and punish you, leave you unemployed, affect the activity of Oltchim, because I want so, because I'm Lukoil". Lukoil must think that it will disappear completely off the Romanian market, if that is its approach. Romania is a rule of law state where the law applies to all, equally. And Lukoil has a big chain of distribution, it has licenses in the Black Sea. Lukoil must decide whether it respects the laws of the Romanian state; if it wants the laws in Moscow, it should go there, not to Romania. It cannot put this kind of pressure on the judiciary of Romania only because it is called Lukoil," said Basescu. 

He emphasized that the statement that Lukoil contributes 700 million euro per year to the national budget is a lie. 

"Lukoil has been running at a loss for five years, which makes me think that at the end of the investigation we may find that the 230 million is only something... like an opening bid, in regards to the sum. From where would Lukoil have given 700 million euro to Mr. Ponta for the budget each year, since it's losing [money]? (...) Lukoil had no profits, that's what the reports from the last five years show. Lukoil has been running at a loss. When you go and collect taxes on profit, it would show you a big gap," said Basescu. 

The head of added that in this case the judiciary is facing blackmail. 

"Our judiciary, firstly, is facing a blackmail, pressures - God forbid they give into it! - because tomorrow we will find out that OMV-Petrom has no profit either, nor has Rompetrol, nobody will make a profit in this country, because that's how they act (...) It's a matter that the Government must analyze in all seriousness, it's not a game, and [it's unbelievable] the daring of those who have sent the message that 'we will think until Friday and we'll see about it: if you don't finish with these things, with the judiciary, with prosecutors, we're leaving'. Go on and leave, boys, if you don't respect the laws of the state! Leave, but don't think that you will leave with the refinery," concluded Basescu.

 

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Prime Minister Victor Ponta quoted National Tax Administration Agency (ANAF) data on Thursday, showing each refinery in Romania has contributed 2.7 billion lei to the state budget over the first three quarters of this year. 

'I said I congratulate them, support them, and I am glad that Romanian magistrates fight tax evasion, and every company manager breaking the law should be punished, and damages must be recovered. What the Judiciary do is OK. I, as a prime minister, have obligations on the social side, preserving jobs, and towards the budget. Any refinery in Romania - there are several, not just one - I have the official data: over the first three quarters, each paid to the consolidated state budget approximately 2.7 billion lei, around 100 million dollars per month, besides local taxes. Obviously they are big taxpayers to the state budget. (...) From one refinery only, I don't want to discriminate among them. We have official data from the ANAF,' Ponta declared at the Parliament. 

As regards Lukoil, the company did not pay its profit tax, as it runs on losses for a couple of years, he added. 

'President [Traian] Basescu doesn't know the laws - there were not my money paid by Lukoil, there were taxes, excises, social insurance contributions, everything a company pays. (...) The president is extremely unprepared for a public figure. A company on losses does not pay profit tax. But a company, even on loss, pays every single other tax, except the 16 percent on profit. Lukoil did not pay - and it's not the only one who did not - the 16 percent on profits,' the PM declared. 

He stressed he wishes all 3,500 employees of Lukoil can get their salaries paid, and added that his high interest would have been the same if just 35 jobs were involved. 

'Even 35 jobs, if the can be kept, it's obviously my duty as a prime minister - perhaps I will be the president - to be concerned about those 35 people, 350 or 3,500 people. Otherwise, why would I be prime minister, if I wouldn't be interested in peoples' jobs? It's the most important thing. It's the government's duty to do all it can to preserve these jobs, and to get the salaries paid to the people who worked and have no fault about the management acts,' he insisted. 

Asked about the conditions for the government taking over the Lukoil refinery, Ponta replied, 'Romania is a democratic country, observing the Constitution.' 

He was attending on Thursday evening the public debate 'The new Forest Code - more forests, more clean air for Romanians' at the Parliament Palace.

 

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