Torbjörn Törnqvist used the special $1bn dividend — possibly the largest in the history of oil trading — to settle a debt owed to Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin. Mr Timchenko, who co-founded Gunvor in 2000 with Mr Törnqvist, was placed on a sanctions list by the US on March 20 2014 because of links to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The sanctions were imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The move briefly plunged privately held Gunvor into crisis because of fears that western banks and trading groups would no longer be willing to deal with the Geneva-based company. Much was at stake — Gunvor had by this time transformed itself from a niche Russian oil trader into the world’s fourth largest independent player in the industry behind Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura. Gunvor sought rapidly to address the US move against Mr Timchenko, revealing he had sold his 43 per cent stake in the company to Mr Törnqvist for an undisclosed fee the day before the sanctions were announced.
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