Norilsk to Help Combat Terrorism

ReutersNorilsk Nickel CEO Morozov, left, exchanging documents with Foreign Minister Lavrov at a signing ceremony Tuesday.
Norilsk Nickel will help the Foreign Ministry to combat terrorism and the illegal trading of precious metals in return for support of its business interests abroad, chief executive Denis Morozov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday after signing a cooperation deal.

The deal comes after Lavrov last year offered to help Russian companies doing business abroad, and a Russian consultancy reported that trade barriers prevented the companies from spending $50 billion on acquisitions abroad in 2006.

Morozov said Norilsk, the world's largest nickel miner and one of the top platinum producers, felt responsible for fighting terrorist organizations because they gain much of their funding from illegal trade in precious metals.

Economic globalization "affects terrorist and extremist organizations that hold a considerable part of their assets in precious metals," Morozov said in a Foreign Ministry mansion after signing the agreement, Interfax reported.

Norilsk will give the ministry statistics and databases on "international relations," the company said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the company didn't say what kind of information the databases would contain.

The Foreign Ministry will support the company's "foreign economic activity" and help to counter illegal trade in precious metals, Norilsk said in a statement.

Lavrov praised Norilsk's offer of cooperation, saying it would benefit both sides. "It's clear that the strengthening of Russia's international position creates better terms for entrepreneurs," he said. "At the same time, the strengthening of [Russian] business in the world beefs up our foreign policy potential."

The ministry's support for Norilsk could also translate into help for billionaire Oleg Deripaska's United Company RusAl. The aluminum giant said last month that it was seeking to merge with Norilsk within a year.

Norilsk has been trying to fight smuggling on its own, spokeswoman Yelena Kovalyova said. Investigations are ongoing in Germany and Belgium after Norilsk complained in 2006 that its products were illegally exported to those countries, she said. The owner of the company that imported the commodities to Germany was also linked to illegal arms trading, drawing supplies from Ukraine, Kovalyova said, without specifying where she got the information.

Norilsk operates in the United States, Australia, South Africa and Botswana and can therefore draw on the support of Russian diplomats, Kovalyova said.

The company is hoping that the Foreign Ministry will continue to provide assistance, such as helping with access to world leaders, she said. Then-chief executive Mikhail Prokhorov was able to meet U.S. President George W. Bush on a trip to Washington with then-Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko in 2005, she noted. Norilsk has so far fared well in foreign acquisitions without diplomatic support, Kovalyova said.

A report on attempted deals compiled by consultancy M&A Intelligence named Gazprom, LUKoil, Severstal, Unified Energy System, MMK and Sistema as the victims of trade barriers.

In April 2007, LUKoil became the first private company to strike a cooperation deal with the Foreign Ministry. The ministry helped LUKoil to push for the release of an employee, Alexander Tsygankov, who was detained in Libya last year as a witness in an investigation, a company spokesman said. Lavrov and Vladimir Putin have raised the issue with Libya's authorities, the spokesman said. But Tsygankov remains in jail.