Albania’s Competitions Authority will start a six-month investigation into China’s Bankers Petroleum to ascertain as to whether they have abused their dominance of oil production and trading, according to Reuters.
Following a number of complaints from refiners, who said the company supplied them with less oil than needed, Bankers’ activities will be examined for the period 1 Jan 2016 to the end of October 2019. Those who filed official complaints included Tosk Energji and Al.Global Oil.
The ACA told Reuters that “the behavior of Bankers Petroleum Albania Ltd could constitute an abuse of its dominant position in the market.”
Bankers Petroleum started its oil exploration activities in Albania in 20014 and was then bought from its Canadian owners by Chinese company Geo-Jade Petroleum Corp in 2016. It had previously been known as the Albanian National Oil Company. By the first half of 2019, its output was up 18% on the previous year.
The company owns and operates Patos Marinza, the largest onshore oil field in continental Europe and they produced 15,059 barrels of oil per day in the first six months of this year.
Xingyun Sun, president and CEO said in an interview that they have invested $2 billion in Albania and that their tax contributions makes them “the largest taxpayer that represents 5% of Albania’s GDP”.
He described the Albanian government as “close partners” and spoke of “ambitious plans for our investment”.
Prior to the takeover, Pajtim Bello, the former vice-minister of energy had told BIRN that the government should carefully assess the Chinese company’s financial potential to “avoid any bad surprises in the future.”
Albania had a close relationship with China during the communist rule of Enver Hoxha but it soured in the early 1980s when Hoxha criticised his Chinese counterpart, Deng Xiaoping for “taking the revisionist path”.
Relations between the two countries remained strained until the launch of the One Belt One Road initiative which caused China to pique its interest in Albania once more. Geo-Jade Petroleum Corp won best practice in the Belt & Road awards in 2014.
To date, the initiative has signed up some 124 countries and 29 international organisations, Albania included. Thousands of infrastructure projects are now underway and the initiative is totally ingrained in the Communist Party’s official policies. Naval bases, railways, airports, ports, highways, bridges, and tunnels have sprung up from Djibouti to Malta, all funded by money from Beijing.
The One Belt One Road initiative has been criticised widely with many noting that non-democratic countries should not be allowed to exert influence in democratic societies. Concerns have been raised over alleged kickbacks, government interference, corruption, crackdowns on media freedom, and undue influence over policies and decision making.
Chinese influence in Albania is prevalent with Chinese companies owning the Nene Tereze Airport and having given millions towards road projects. State-owned technology company, Huawei has also invested in education in the country, donating some 1000 books, 1000 toys, and committing to train 1000 IT talents over the next five years.
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