May 14, 2020 / 3:48 PM / 21 days ago

Russian security firm takes control of Rosneft's Venezuela assets

MOSCOW, May 14 (Reuters) - A private Russian security firm linked to Kremlin-controlled oil giant Rosneft has become the controlling shareholder in a Venezuelan-focused oil consortium that Rosneft left, a state registry and database showed on Thursday.

Russia in March set up an oil firm called Roszarubezhneft at the same time as Rosneft sold its business in Venezuela to an undisclosed company owned by the Russian government.

According to Interfax news agency’s Spark database, a security firm called ChOP RN-Okhrana-Ryazan has become the owner of 80% of the National Petroleum Consortium, a Russian entity, which has worked in Venezuela.

Roszarubezhneft took control of ChOP RN-Okhrana-Ryazan, which had been in Rosneft’s ownership, in April, according to data in the state registry.

Interfax first reported earlier on Thursday that the security firm had taken control of the consortium. Rosneft did not respond to a request for comment.

A source familiar with the details told Reuters in March that the Russian state cut its holding in oil giant Rosneft to below a majority stake as part of its deal to buy the group’s Venezuelan assets.

The divestment of its interests in Venezuela may shield Rosneft from future sanctions risks. Washington has long criticised Rosneft for working in the South American country and trading its barrels.

U.S. sanctions were this year put on two Swiss-based Rosneft units - Rosneft Trading and TNK Trading International - that Washington said had provided Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his state energy company PDVSA with a lifeline. (Reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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