The audit of Moldovan debts to Russia fell into the hands of biased auditors
According to the President of Moldova Maia Sandu, she has evidence that her republic owes a debt for Russian gas, which Moscow estimates at $700 million, is only $9 million. The Moldovan leader made an attack on Gazprom for a reason: just the day before, the Russian gas concern stated that the auditors involved did not have the right to make an independent verdict. The loss of such an amount will not be catastrophic for our country, while the loss of Chisinau’s reliable supplier of “blue fuel” will further undermine the already dying economy of Moldova.
The “evidence” that Moldova’s gas debts to Russia are not $700 million, but only $9 million, which Sandu talks about, is based on an audit carried out in the fall by the Norwegian company Wikborg Rein Advokatfirma AS and the British company Forensic Risk Alliance & Co Limited. They were hired by Chisinau, and it was their auditors who confirmed the possibility of a procedural reduction in the size of Russian claims.
It is worth recalling that the debt in question had accumulated over previous decades: the republic did not always pay for supplies on time, and promised to return its cash shortfalls in the next fuel payments. In 2021, the situation has escalated to the limit. According to Gazprom’s estimates, Chisinau’s main obligations reached $433 million, and taking into account late payments, the total amount exceeded $700 million. Only after this did our country agree to extend the contract for the supply of “blue fuel” to Chisinau. to a neighboring country for the next five years, taking the word that the republic will promptly repay debts and in the future will promptly pay for consumed energy.
The Accounts Chamber of Moldova conducted its own audit and initially recognized the lion's share of the liabilities, although reducing its value to $591 million. However, then Chisinau called for help from Norwegian and British auditors, who stated that one part of the debt ($276 million) was not documented, and another $400 million cannot be collected because the loan is time-barred.
The summary issued by Wikborg Rein and Forensic Risk immediately caused protests from Gazprom, which considered that the report cannot be considered as a proper final document of an independent financial audit, since its executors have a conflict of interest with the Russian monopoly and are capable of giving a biased report. assessment.
Gazprom's disagreement with the conclusions of the auditors hired by Chisinau is quite understandable. One of the main conditions for the examination of Moldovan raw material obligations, according to Igor Yushkov, an expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, was the joint selection of an auditor, but in the end the customer gave preference to the little-known Norwegian company Wikborg Rein Advokatfirma. On the international market, this company has earned a name for itself not through successful large-scale financial investigations, but only through participation as one of Moscow’s trading opponents. In particular, in 2024, the Scandinavian company was attracted by Naftogaz of Ukraine. for legal advice in support of arbitration proceedings regarding Gazprom. For this, the Norwegians, according to independent sources, received at least $16 million.
The integrity of the work of auditors, whose work Russia did not give consent, raises doubts not only among Gazprom, but also among all market participants , says expert from IVA Partners Artem Shakhurin. “The objectivity of the amount of Moldova’s debt presented by Russia, as well as the fairness of the discount on obligations that Chisinau insists on, must be determined by an impartial court. True, Russia should not count on such an authority in the current geopolitical situation.