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Ukrainian Gas Company Files Lawsuit After Rick Perry Allies Awarded Lucrative Government Contract

A Ukrainian state-owned oil and gas company has filed a lawsuit accusing the Ukraine government of illegally favoring a longtime GOP donor and close ally of former U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry by awarding his newly-formed company a lucrative government contract despite bidding significantly less for the project, according to a Monday report from Time.

Naftogaz of Ukraine reportedly filed the lawsuit Friday afternoon in the District Administrative Court of Kyiv against the Ukrainian government actors who awarded the lucrative exploratory license to Ukrainian-born energy investor Michael Bleyzer of Texas and his company “Ukrainian Energy.” It was the largest contract of its kind auctioned by the government in 2019.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, the Ukrainian government reportedly awarded the contract to Perry’s political allies just weeks after the Energy Secretary attended the inauguration of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in May.

According to the Associated Press, during his time in Ukraine, Perry gave Zelensky a list of four people he believed were well-suited to advise Ukraine on energy matters, with Bleyzer being one of the names listed.

“A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights,” the report said. Cranberg, described as a GOP “mega-donor,” also allowed Perry the use of his luxury private jet during Perry’s failed 2012 presidential campaign.

Bleyzer denied any wrongdoing, insisting that political influence played no role in his company winning the 50-year government contract for the rights to explore for oil and gas in a vast complex of fields known as Varvynska, the largest of nine energy licenses that the government put up for auction this year, according to the Time report.

“The bid submitted by our company was judged as superior by the interagency committee as advised by a group of independent experts,” Bleyzer wrote in an email to TIME. “It was and is Ukraine’s goal to bring in much needed-foreign expertise and investment to find new fields, a goal advanced by this award.”

Internal documents reviewed by the AP said Ukrainian Energy, which was formed just before the bidding process commenced, received the contract because Ukraine’s government commission concluded it had superior technical expertise and funding. However, the decision came down while Perry, along with Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker enjoyed outsized influence in the region. The trio became known as the “three amigos.”

The Department of Energy said Perry merely advocated on behalf of the American energy sector and did not play favorites to political donors.

“Throughout his tenure at DOE, Secretary Perry championed the American energy industry all over the world,” DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement on Sunday. “[T]hroughout his engagements with Ukrainian officials Secretary Perry consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kyiv’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.”

Naftogaz is seeking to have the court overturn the government’s decision and hold a new bidding competition for licensing rights.

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.