August 11, 2022

A billionaire who this week might be chosen to run the Nationwide Lottery has enterprise ties with Russian-state power big Gazprom, the Mail can reveal.

Karel Komarek is hoping to win the extremely profitable licence with a plan to slash ticket costs from £2 to £1.

However the Czech businessman, who runs Europe’s largest lottery operator, Allwyn, faces scrutiny over his hyperlinks with Gazprom, which is managed by the Kremlin.

Putin critic: Czech businessman Karel Komarek (pictured with spouse Stepanka) is hoping to win the extremely profitable Nationwide Lottery licence with a plan to slash ticket costs from £2 to £1

His firm MND (Moravske Naftove Doly) fashioned a three way partnership with Gazprom to construct an underground gasoline storage facility in his dwelling nation, which opened in Moravia in 2016.

For a number of years, MND additionally held a stake in a Czech gasoline importer that’s majority-owned by subsidiaries of Gazprom, though it now not does so.

Downing Road has referred to as on companies to consider their connections to Russian companies even when they haven’t been sanctioned. 

Boris Johnson’s spokesman mentioned: ‘The Prime Minister’s view is that Putin’s regime, and Putin, have to be handled like a pariah state and companies ought to assume very fastidiously if they’re nonetheless persevering with to do something that props up the Putin regime.’

He added: ‘What we are attempting to do is to clarify that even once we’re not taking legislative motion, folks ought to assume very fastidiously about how they interact with any organisations which may be helping Putin, even inadvertently, within the invasion of Ukraine.’ Mr Komarek, who’s value £5.9billion in response to Forbes, began his enterprise within the Nineteen Nineties within the oil and gasoline sector.

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He moved into lotteries a decade in the past when he purchased the agency that runs attracts within the Czech Republic.

Now referred to as Allwyn, it has expanded, turning into the highest lottery operator in Italy, Austria, Greece and Cyprus. It hopes to wrest the Nationwide Lottery licence away from Camelot, with the choice on who wins the brand new franchise probably being taken by the Playing Fee this week, although the result is probably not made public till later this month.

Allwyn has pledged to donate £38billion to good causes over the following decade if it wins – up from £16billion donated by Camelot since 2012.

However some questioned whether or not this shall be achieved. An trade insider final evening mentioned: ‘In case you halve the ticket worth you’ll additionally halve the income raised except you double the variety of gamers. This could considerably cut back cash raised for good causes and the Treasury.’

Komarek and Gazprom introduced a three way partnership to assemble an underground gasoline storage facility in Moravia in 2013. He posed for photographs with Alexander Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Gazprom Administration Committee.

Ruling: Allwyn hopes to wrest the lottery licence away from Camelot, with the decision on who wins the new franchise possibly being taken by the Gambling Commission this week

Ruling: Allwyn hopes to wrest the lottery licence away from Camelot, with the choice on who wins the brand new franchise probably being taken by the Playing Fee this week

In a press launch, Komarek mentioned: ‘Gazprom is our strategic companion. We extremely respect the chance of making a three way partnership with one of many world power majors. We see it as a form of a reward for a few years {of professional} efficiency within the oil and gasoline sector. In future we’re planning new joint initiatives not solely within the Czech Republic, but additionally in Europe and the Russian Federation.’

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Gazprom, which is majority-owned by the Russian state, has been focused within the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Uefa, European soccer’s governing physique, has ended its sponsorship offers with it for the Champions League and Euro 2024. German membership Schalke can also be cancelling its take care of Gazprom.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, final week mentioned he was halting Nord Stream 2, the brand new gasoline pipeline constructed by Gazprom working from Russia to Europe throughout the Baltic Sea. 

The Every day Mail understands the Playing Fee has written to bidders for the lottery licence to ask if they’re affected by sanctions imposed on Russian companies and people. Gazprom just isn’t at present on the record of sanctioned firms.

Komarek criticised Putin in an announcement on his LinkedIn web page final week. He wrote: ‘I strongly condemn the act of warfare which Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation have undertaken.

‘The EU and Nato should present unity in opposition to this unprovoked aggression, and we should defend the democratic values upon which our societies had been constructed.

‘I’m assured that world powers and all democratic nations will impose the strongest doable sanctions on Russia. 

If we will obtain this, we’ll efficiently present Vladimir Putin that mindless acts of warfare haven’t any place right here, or anyplace else. 

February 24, 2022, is not only a date when warfare started in Europe. It is usually a date that signifies the start of the top of Vladimir Putin’s period.

‘We can’t permit the lack of civilian life as a consequence of this mindless resolution. I prolong my full assist to the folks of Ukraine at this perilous time.’

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A spokesman for Komarek mentioned: ‘Mr Komarek has been a really public critic of the Russian president, final week making an impassioned public assertion condemning his actions and predicting that the Russian invasion of Ukraine signifies the start of the top of his regime.

He took the choice a few years in the past to divest and exit from Russian belongings excluding a 50/50 joint-venture (JV) with Gazprom.

‘This JV was maintained to make sure an necessary Czech power asset was not topic to full Russian management, nevertheless since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Mr Komarek has approached the Czech authorities to debate how one can keep Czech management of this vital nationwide asset, whereas eradicating Gazprom from the JV.’