Russian President Vladimir Putin advocates criminal penalty for corrupt officials at Gazprom.
"Our infrastructure companies are not without faults, which are inherent in the whole economy - that goes without saying. We are more and more often hearing complaints about how Gazprom does business, that there are corrupt elements. There probably are, but the police should catch them and throw them in prison," Putin said in response to a question during the VTB Capital conference Russia Calling!.
"And I believe that this would be very appropriate. I am already aware of this and have standing orders given repeatedly to law enforcement bodies. If they dig somebody up, then God giving, that means they'll put somebody in prison," he said.
Putin was answering a question put forth by a participant in the conference, who recalled that Gazprom procures pipes through an intermediary, whose margin, according to Interfax's data, is 30 percent. She asked whether or not Putin wants to take advantage of his chance to enter the history books as a president who reformed Gazprom "in order for investors to be happy, for the government to start working normally, and for everything to be transparent." Her question was met with applause in the auditorium.
North European Pipe Project, which is controlled by the Rotenberg brothers, is the chief intermediary in Gazprom's large-diameter pipe procurements.
"Of course, I would like to do everything I can with the more than five years I have left as president of the country. To the maximum. I am proceeding from that, and so intend to build my work," Putin said.
"Now a whole campaign has unfolded against Gazprom in European countries - they are seeking out its alleged monopoly position on the market. Awhile back, they seized documents. By the way, I want to draw your attention to the fact that Gazprom occupies 27 percent of the European market, and the Norwegian company has 29 percent. Which one is the monopoly?" he said.
"And with regards to a possible decrease in prices for the end consumer, particularly in European countries, I recommend that you look at the structure of price formation. The end consumer pays a price on which there is a 60 percent tax. Why do our partners want us to lower our company\'s income, but they have left the tax component untouched? Gas passes through several companies - resellers - in European countries. Maybe they should take from them? Who gains from that? So let's look at the entire chain, from production to the end consumer. If we are consolidated with you and look at everything impartially, then of course we will achieve a result," Putin concluded.
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