Revealed: The Explosive Secret Recording That Shows How Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”
A close aide to Italy's deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini held covert talks to pump Russian oil money to his far-right party. BuzzFeed News has the tape.
BuzzFeed News Europe Editor
Posted on July 10, 2019, at 6:00 a.m. ET
Six men sat down for a business meeting on the morning of October 18 last year, amid the hubbub and marble-columned opulence of Moscow’s iconic Metropol Hotel, to discuss plans for a “great alliance.”
A century earlier, the grand institution was the scene of events that helped change the face of Europe and the world: Czarist forces fought from inside the hotel as they tried and failed to hold the Bolsheviks back from the Kremlin in 1917, and it was here, in suite 217, that the first Soviet Constitution was drafted after the revolution succeeded.
The six men — three Russians, three Italians — gathered beneath the spectacular painted glass ceiling in the hotel lobby last October had their eyes on history too. Their nominal purpose was an oil deal; their real goal was to undermine liberal democracies and shape a new, nationalist Europe aligned with Moscow.
BuzzFeed News has obtained an explosive audio recording of the Metropol meeting in which a close aide of Europe’s most powerful far-right leader — Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — and the other five men can be heard negotiating the terms of a deal to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money to Salvini’s Lega party.
The recording reveals the elaborate lengths the two sides were willing to go to conceal the fact that the true beneficiary of the deal would be Salvini’s party — a breach of Italian electoral law, which bans political parties from accepting large foreign donations — despite the comfort with which he and Europe’s other far-right leaders publicly parade their pro-Kremlin political sympathies.
United World International / YouTube / Via youtube.com
“We want to change Europe,” said longtime Salvini aide Gianluca Savoini — who dined alongside Vladimir Putin at a government banquet to celebrate the Russian president’s visit to Rome last week. “A new Europe has to be close to Russia as before because we want to have our sovereignty,” he continued over the clinking of coffee cups and buzz of conversation around the lobby.
As well as releasing excerpts of the Metropol tape — the existence of which is being revealed for the first time today — BuzzFeed News is also publishing a transcript of the entire recording.
Salvini — described enthusiastically by the Russians on the tape as the “European Trump” — did not attend the meeting himself, but he was in Moscow at the time. The previous day he gave a speech in which he denounced sanctions against Russia as “economic, social, and cultural folly” before reportedly meeting with the Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Kozak, and a powerful member of Putin’s United Russia party named Vladimir Pligin.
Although BuzzFeed News has been unable to identify the Russians at the Metropol meeting, the tape contains clear indications that high-level government figures in Moscow were aware of the negotiations — including those with whom Salvini had reportedly met the previous evening. The Russian negotiators can be heard referring to “yesterday’s meeting” without specifying the attendees, saying twice that they would have to feed details back to the “deputy prime minister,” and explaining they were hoping to get the “green light” from “Mr. Pligin” the following week.
The Lega leader has vehemently denied ever receiving any foreign money to fund his party.
Alamy Stock Photo
Salvini and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting in 2014.
But the Metropol tape provides the first hard evidence of Russia’s clandestine attempts to fund Europe’s nationalist movements, and the apparent complicity of some senior figures from the far right in those attempts.
While it’s unclear whether the agreement negotiated at the Metropol hotel was ever executed, or if Lega received any funding, the existence of the recording of a detailed negotiation raises serious questions about whether Italian laws were broken, the links between Moscow and Salvini’s Lega party, and the integrity of May’s European elections.
European politics has been shadowed for years by the suggestion that Russian commercial transactions with far-right leaders had a hidden political purpose.
Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters
From left: European far-right leaders Frauke Petry (Germany); Marine Le Pen (France); Salvini; Geert Wilders (Netherlands); Harald Vilimsky (Austria); and Marcus Pretzell (Germany) onstage in Koblenz, Germany, Jan. 21, 2017.
French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen took €11 million in loans from Russian banks, including one close to the Kremlin, in 2014 — a year after she publicly backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea — but insisted the deal was commercial, not political.
Ahead of Britain’s EU referendum in 2016, Brexit’s biggest financial backer, Arron Banks, discussed gold and diamond investment deals offered via the Russian Embassy in London that promised vast profits. Banks, who is currently being investigated by the UK’s National Crime Agency over the “true source” of £8 million he donated to the Leave.EU campaign, has said he ultimately declined the offers and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The leader of Austria's far-right FPÖ party, Heinz-Christian Strache, was forced to resign in May after being caught in a sting in which he was filmed discussing the exchange of public contracts for Russian campaign support. The leaked video was published by the German news outlets Süddeutsche Zeitung and Spiegel, though it remains unclear who set up the sting.
The Metropol meeting bears all the hallmarks of a real negotiation rather than a sting. And while questions remain unanswered about Russia’s previous financial maneuvers with nationalist figures, the recording offers X-ray clarity on the Kremlin’s relationship with the powerful Italian Lega party, and a clear model for how exactly Russia uses commerce to mask naked exchanges of money and power.
Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Getty Images
Hotel Metropol in central Moscow.
Opening the discussion in faltering English, Savoini, who has been described in the Italian media as Salvini’s “sherpa to Russia” and who uses a picture of himself shaking hands with Putin as his WhatsApp avatar, was explicit about the grand political ambition behind the proposed deal.
“Salvini is the first man that want[s] to change all of Europe,” he declared. Victory at the European elections taking place the following May would be just the start.
Listing nationalist “allies” across the continent like France’s Le Pen and Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, the 55-year-old Italian, who can be heard later on the tape describing himself as the “connection” between the Italian and Russian political sides, concluded: “We really want to begin to have a great alliance with these parties that are pro-Russia.”
Obtained by BuzzFeed News
The Russian response was positive. They can be heard describing Salvini, who is also Italy’s interior minister, as the “head” of Europe’s resurgent ultra-right nationalist movements, stretching from Italy in the south to Sweden and Finland in the north.
The negotiation — which lasted for an hour and 15 minutes, interspersed with cigarette breaks and fueled by espressos — would involve a major Russian oil company selling at least 3 million metric tons of fuel over the course of a year to Italian oil company Eni for a value of around $1.5 billion. The buying and selling would be done through intermediaries, with the sellers applying a discounted rate to these transactions.
The discount would be worth around $65 million, based on fuel prices at the time, according to calculations provided to BuzzFeed News by industry analysts, and it is this money that would be secretly funneled to the Italian party via the intermediaries.
The participants were clear that the purpose of the deal and the discount mechanism at its heart was to support Lega, in particular its European election campaign.
“It’s very simple,” one of the two other Italian men said some 25 minutes into the meeting. “The planning made by our political guys was that given a 4% discount, 250,000 [metric tons] plus 250,000 per month per one year, they can sustain a campaign.”
At the time of the meeting, a loophole in Italian law meant that it was legal for parties to accept money from foreign donors. But the maximum amount that could be taken by a party was €100,000 — a fraction of the tens of millions Lega stood to receive under this covert arrangement.
In January this year, new legislation closed the loophole, making it illegal for Italian parties to receive any funding or support from foreign governments or entities.
Savoini can be heard telling the other Italian participants that he had a “good feeling” about a deal materializing.
He and the other Italians repeatedly emphasized to the Russians that “quickness is of the utmost importance because elections are just around the corner” as they pushed for the first shipment to be in November.
Savoini can also be heard underlining to the other Italians the importance of keeping their relationship a tightly held secret. Describing the three of them as “a triumvirate,” he said they needed to be a “watertight compartment” and “more than prudent.”
The Italians were explicit that they were “not counting to make money” from the deal for themselves. The purpose was “not professional, it’s just a political issue,” one of the men told the Russians. “We count on sustaining a political campaign which is of benefit, I would say of mutual benefit, for the two countries.”
And in response to the Russians asking about extra “commission” for themselves — later euphemistically described as “an amount to be returned” to the Russians — Savoini made clear he was fine with them taking that cut. “They take even 400 or whatever the fuck they need to take,” he told his Italian colleagues later. “It doesn’t matter. It’s a guarantee. It means they will always do that and for us it’s OK.”
The recording blows apart statements issued by Salvini and Savoini after the meeting and some details of the negotiation at the Metropol were first reported in February by two Italian journalists, Stefano Vergine and Giovanni Tizian, in L’Espresso magazine.
At the time, Salvini’s spokesperson declined to answer questions about the Metropol meeting, dismissing them as “fantasies,” while Savoini told the Kremlin-backed news outlet Sputnik that he had not taken part in any negotiation. In a message to BuzzFeed News at the time, he described the story as “the plot of a fiction.”
On the recording, however, Savoini can be heard telling his colleagues that he was the “total connection” between the Italian and Russian sides, and that the other Italians were his partners. He said he’d been told this by “Aleksandr” — a possible reference to Aleksandr Dugin, a high-profile Russian far-right ideologue and political analyst, with whom Savoini had been photographed the previous day.
Approached by BuzzFeed News on Monday with a detailed set of questions about the Metropol meeting, Savoini wrote back: “Sorry but I don't have time to waste on these things,” adding that his lawyer would comment “if necessary.” No further response was received from Savoini or his lawyer.
The Italian journalists, who previewed excerpts from their book The Black Book of Lega in L’Espresso, also reported that Salvini met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Kozak on the evening of October 17 at Pligin’s office. The meeting did not appear on Salvini’s official schedule, which listed no engagements for that evening.
Asked in February about the reported meeting with Kozak, Salvini did not deny it took place. “I can’t remember what I did the day before yesterday,” he said in an Italian television interview. “It’s hard to remember what I did on October 17.”
He added: “If the meeting did take place, it would be absolutely legitimate, and indeed proper.”
BuzzFeed News made multiple attempts to get Salvini’s response to the Metropol recording and the suggestion that he was involved in setting out the terms of the deal. He did not respond.
On Monday, Kozak denied that he met with Salvini at Pligin’s office on October 17. Brushing aside detailed questions from BuzzFeed News, his spokesperson Ilya Dzhus said in a WhatsApp message, “We have already commented on the so-called ‘investigation’ of the Italian edition of Espresso, it is built on unsubstantiated speculation…”
He continued: “Kozak was never personally acquainted with Mr. Salvini, they did not hold any official or ‘secret’ meetings. ... Russia and Italy have a large block of bilateral economic cooperation, including in the energy and industrial sphere. Kozak, as the relevant deputy prime minister, is focused only on this agenda.”
In response to a letter sent on Monday morning, followed by multiple phone calls, Pligin's office told BuzzFeed News that he was traveling and they had been unable to reach him.
Presidency of the Council of Ministers
From left: Salvini, Putin, and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio in Rome, April 7.
Vladimir Putin has been able to count on Matteo Salvini’s unswerving and vocal support for years.
The Lega leader has repeatedly called for European Union sanctions against Russia to be dropped; he has described the annexation of Crimea as legitimate, even visiting the illegally occupied region in 2016.
He has also criticized NATO and the coordinated EU response to the Salisbury nerve agent attack by Russian military intelligence operatives in March 2018.
Vincent Kessler / Reuters
From left: Italian members of the European Parliament Gianluca Buonanno, Lorenzo Fontana, and Matteo Salvini attend a voting session on the European Union–Ukraine Association agreement in Strasbourg, France, Sept. 16, 2014. The slogan on the T-shirts says "No sanctions to Russia."
But it’s over the last 18 months that Salvini’s value as an ally to Putin has increased exponentially. His reinvention of Lega from a small regional force in the north of Italy to a nationwide, far-right, anti-immigrant party saw it win over 17% of the vote in the Italian general election in March 2018. Three months later, he became deputy prime minister and interior minister when Lega entered into a coalition government with the populist Five Star Movement.
Since then the party has grown to become the country’s dominant political force, doubling its vote to 34.5% in May’s EU parliamentary elections to become the most popular party in the world’s eighth largest economy. The result secured Salvini’s status in the vanguard of Europe’s nationalist far-right movements.
Putin and Salvini’s mutual admiration was on public display again last week during an official visit by the Russian president to Rome, where he praised the Lega leader’s “welcoming attitude towards our country.” After a government dinner for Putin, Salvini described him as “one of those characters who will leave his mark on history.” Also among the guests was Savoini, who tweeted a video of Putin, with Salvini in the shot over his shoulder.
Presidency of the Council of Ministers
Savoini (circled) is seen in the background at the government dinner for Putin hosted by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Salvini has been a remarkably frequent flyer to Moscow over the years. There were three trips in quick succession between October 2014 and February 2015, another in January 2017, followed by another two months later, and he has already traveled to the Russian capital twice on official trips since taking office just a year ago. On each occasion he has been accompanied by his unofficial Kremlin fixer, Savoini.
Savoini’s working relationship with Salvini spans two decades. He has been a member of the Lega party since 1991, and served as Salvini’s spokesperson. He helped organize all the Lega leader’s trips to Moscow and was central to enabling a partnership agreement between the Italian party and Putin’s United Russia in March 2017.
He is also the president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, which has consistently pushed pro-Kremlin propaganda since its foundation in 2014. The association’s website says its aim is to reflect Putin’s worldview based on identity, sovereignty, and tradition. Its activities have included contacts with officials and trade missions to Russia, annexed Crimea, and Donetsk, the region in eastern Ukraine under the control of Russia-backed separatists, as well as public events and lobbying to promote Kremlin-friendly policy and oppose sanctions.
Savoini’s precise status and role on official visits to Moscow remains unclear. BuzzFeed News reported in July last year that he had attended official meetings with Russian ministers and officials alongside Salvini, despite not being on the list of ministerial delegates. Savoini, who has no official government role, said he was there as a “member of the minister’s staff” and had known Salvini “since forever.”
The official reason for Salvini’s last trip to Moscow in October was to give a speech on the 17th at a conference organized by an Italian industry group. Savoini was at the event at the Lotte Hotel, where the Lega leader delivered his anti-sanctions message. Beyond this point, no official meetings appear on Salvini’s schedule, but it was that evening, according to L’Espresso, that the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Kozak took place at Pligin’s office.
Nothing is known about Salvini’s movements the next morning, but just after noon Moscow time, he posted a photo of himself on Twitter and Instagram enjoying a beer and a hamburger at the city’s Sheremetyevo airport — the only public record of what he did that day before flying back to Italy.
View image on Twitter
Spuntino dietetico in aeroporto a #Mosca, dopo aver incontrato imprenditori italiani e ministri russi, si riparte direzione #Bolzano!
Chi si ferma è perduto, vi abbraccio
4:07 AM - Oct 18, 2018
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The Metropol tape obtained by BuzzFeed News, however, reveals in vivid detail how one of his most trusted aides spent that morning, as Salvini was preparing to leave Moscow.
Over the course of the meeting, Savoini, the other two Italians, and the three Russians discussed in fine detail the technicalities of the deal to channel millions to Lega, from the types of fuel required and the potential ports of delivery to “commission payments,” currency, and how to keep communications secure and transactions below the radar of the authorities.
The negotiations between the two sides were largely conducted in English, with each side repeatedly reverting back to Italian or Russian to confer among themselves because not everyone at the table spoke English.
BuzzFeed News has been unable to identify the five other men. One Italian was referred to as “Luca.” He led much of the technical discussion, described himself as a lawyer, and appeared to be based in London working for an unnamed English investment bank.
The other was called “Francesco,” only spoke Italian, and was at one stage jokingly referred to as “nonno” — granddad. He appeared to be responsible for figuring out the mechanics of getting the funding to Lega via the intermediaries, as well as the potential commissions.
On the Russian side, one of the three didn’t speak English, and mostly engaged through an interpreter. One of the individuals was addressed by Savoini and the others as “Ilya.” The names “Yuri” and “Andrey” can also be heard.
The Russians were clearly answerable to more senior figures outside the room, saying several times that they would have to discuss different aspects of the arrangement with “Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,” while “Mr. Pligin,” "the comrade," and "verkhniy" — Russian for “upper,” which appears here to refer to a higher-ranking official — can also be heard.
From the recording, it is clear that this was not the first time some of the six men had come together to discuss the proposed deal. At several points they referred to previous detailed conversations and meetings, including in Rome.
There was also lighter small talk among the men, such as conversations about holidays in Sicily and Sardinia. At one point, the Italians joked about wanting to send some people to the Russian “gulags” for “mental rehabilitation.” At another there was some banter about giving up smoking, with one of the Russians complaining about the graphic health warning images on cigarette packs in Italy, and an Italian joking that men in his country always ask for the one with the warning about not getting pregnant.
“Let’s close the deal and we stop together,” the Italian said.
“Deal,” the Russian replied.
But on the substance of the plan, both the Russians and the Italians, including Savoini, appeared serious and deeply immersed in the detail.
After his opening remarks about changing Europe, Savoini handed over to what he referred to as his “technical partners.”
"Now our technique papers are already made as they are ready to be given to Mr. Deputy Prime Minister," one of the Russians replied. "But we have to discuss latest decisions maybe," he added.
Obtained by BuzzFeed News
Most of the ensuing discussion centered on structuring the arrangement to find the right combination of oil companies, intermediaries, port of delivery, product type, payment terms, and timescale.
The proposed transactions would be structured around four firms: Italy’s Eni and a major Russian oil company — Rosneft and Lukoil are suggested — and two intermediaries.
"We have Eni who will be on the Italian side, yes?” one of the Russians said. “We have Russian oil company on our side, and we have two companies in the middle."
Obtained by BuzzFeed News
An Eni spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in an email: “Eni strongly reiterates that [it] in no way took part [in] transactions aimed at financing political parties. Moreover, the described supply operation never took place.”
The men explicitly discussed how to choose a second intermediary so that the deal did not come to the attention of European authorities by tripping “know your client” procedures and anti–money laundering laws.
The Italian referred to as Luca advised that it should be “a well-known company.” When one of the Russians asked whether it was better for the company to be in Russia or Europe, he replied: “Europe, definitely.”
They also discussed using the Russian arm of the Italian bank Intesa. An advantage of this option, one of the Italians explained to the Russians, was that Lega had "a man in there called Mascetti.”
The individual can then be heard telling the other two Italians: "We need to after this meeting talk to the guy who begins with ‘Ma’ and ends with ‘etti’ so that they meet after the fundamentals are closed. Why am I interested? Because Eni already has accounts with Intesa, and they [the Russian oil companies] do too probably."
One of the board directors of Intesa Russia is named Andrea Mascetti. He is a former senior member of the Lega party.
There is no suggestion in the recording that Mascetti or anyone else at Intesa was aware of the discussions that were taking place; nor is it known whether any officer of Intesa was contacted by any of the three Italians after the meeting at the Metropol.
In response to a request for comment from Mascetti, his lawyer told BuzzFeed News in an email that he strongly denied any knowledge whatsoever of the events as described and was “totally extraneous” to these.
The technical discussions covered the best ports of delivery, with Rotterdam, Novorossiysk in the Black Sea, and the Baltic route as the options put forward, though the Russians pointed out that there was limited capacity via the Baltic.
They also discussed the type of fuel to be sold under the deal, with the Russian acting as an interpreter inviting the Italians to provide options, which included aviation fuel and diesel, in a list. “We will give [the list] to the deputy prime minister," he said.
BuzzFeed News approached oil analysts to obtain an approximate valuation for the deal using one of the fuel options discussed, ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). Between November 1 and November 30 last year, the wholesale value of ULSD delivered into Rotterdam, for example, ranged between $693.25 to $556.25 per metric ton, based on the industry-standard Platts benchmark used by oil companies.
That means 250,000 metric tons — the proposed first shipment — of ULSD would have been worth $173 million on November 1 and $139 million on November 30, so Lega’s 4% cut that month would have been worth at least $5.5 million. Over the course of 12 months, assuming similar prices, the party stood to receive about $65 million.
At one point, the Russians discussed among themselves how they needed to wait for Pligin, the lawyer who reportedly had hosted the meeting between Salvini and the Russian deputy prime minister the previous night, to give them the go-ahead to proceed.
“We need to tell them that we are expecting Vladimir Nikolaevich’s return. We are waiting for him. Hopefully we’ll get the green light next week,” one of the Russians told his colleague who was interpreting into English.
“We are waiting for Mr. Pligin to return when to discuss,” the interpreter then told the Italians.
Obtained by BuzzFeed News
The Italian lawyer said he had checked whether Pligin could fly to Italy and he believed it would be OK as he was “not on red alert in Interpol,” despite the fact that the Russian was named on an EU sanctions list.
One of the Russian men can then be heard saying — in Russian — that he had talked to Pligin and he didn't want to go to Italy. "We have to explain that to our Italian colleagues," one of the others said, but the information was not passed on.
The Russians were keen to generate extra “commission” payments for themselves, raising the possibility of future contracts beyond the one-year political arrangement.
Reiterating that the motivation for this deal was purely political, the Italian lawyer said only the 4% discount was required to fund the election campaign — so the Russians could take anything above that. "I would say they have made their plans on 4% net. So if you now say it’s 10% discount, I would say 6% is yours,” he said.
The Italians were far more concerned throughout the discussion with making sure the money was flowing to Lega in time for May’s elections. The man referred to as Francesco said to his Italian colleagues at one point: “I want to say how important it is to us to do this by December even if it is then delayed two, three months. June, July — we don’t care."
That message was underlined repeatedly in English to the Russians by the Italian lawyer. “If we are very quick — but we need to be very, very quick — then I think [the] first delivery might be in November," he said.
"I agree with you because we have to act very quickly," a Russian responded.
The Italian lawyer later reassured Savoini that the Russians had got the message. “Everything is OK. I told and Andrey agreed quickness is of utmost importance.”
But there was still concern that the first shipment could be delayed into late January. “If we are quick — now maybe first delivery in November. If we are not quick then — maybe it’s December. And then December, we know in Italy it’s Christmas and everybody is very lazy.”
Savoini replied: “In Russia too. In Russia, Christmas in January. Holiday Italian then Russian, we have one month of holidays — 15 December, 15 January, Italy and Russia together is holidays.”
He also voiced concern about not being able to do the deal in US dollars because of Russian currency restrictions, but was told by the Russians: “We can work in any currency.” It would only be a problem if the deal were between two Russian companies, they said, prompting the Italian lawyer to say that the deal could be done in euros and converted into dollars anyway.
Savoini seemed unconvinced, suggesting a smaller initial shipment if that was less risky, and repeating his concerns about dollar transactions.
“He is saying to put some attention on the financial transaction not to incur any problems," the Italian lawyer told the Russians. “Can I say yes, we will work on it?" the lawyer asked.
The Russian responded: “If we make it in one bank, for example Intesa, it will not be a problem.”
In another exchange, Savoini returned to the reason for the deal: the nationalist political project. “We are changing really the situation in Europe,” he said. “And it’s impossible to stop. The history is marching, so it’s impossible. It’s really a new deal, a new situation, a new future for us. We are in the center of this process.
“But we have a lot of enemies. We are in a dangerous situation because our government is attacked from Brussels, from the globalist men — not Trump but the establishment of Obama is very, very strong and inside in Italy too. We are in dangerous [territory]. It is not so simple, but we want to fight because we are in truth.”
Emanuele Cremaschi / Getty Images
A detail of an election poster in Milan picturing Salvini, May 26.
As the meeting drew to a close, both sides appeared to be optimistic about closing the deal. “Concerning the future contract, I think we have all the information,” one of the Russian men said in English. “I understand the urgency,” he added.
A few minutes later, the Italian lawyer listed all the follow-up items as he noted them down and promised to share a screenshot with the Russians.
“OK, gentlemen, I think it’s going in the right direction,” he said.
“And it’s my luck to make them act quickly and immediately,” his Russian counterpart replied.
“You will,” said the Italian.
By the time the bill arrived, the six men were in a buoyant mood. They can be heard joking over who should pay for the coffees. “This is not Rome,” one of the Russians said.
Savoini’s response was telling. Turning to one of his favorite slogans — based on a 16th-century doctrine that held the Russian Empire to be the successor to ancient Rome and Constantinople as the ultimate center of true Christianity — he replied: “Moscow is the third Rome.”
Tanya Kozyreva and Miriam Elder contributed reporting to this story.
Edmon de Haro for BuzzFeed News
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/al ... -recording
To read a full transcript of the meeting click here.
BuzzFeed News has obtained an audio recording of a meeting on Oct. 18, 2018, at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in which Gianluca Savoini, a close, longtime aide of Italy’s nationalist deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and five other men — three Russians and two Italians — discussed the terms of a possible deal to secretly funnel around $65 million of Russian oil money to Salvini’s Lega party and its European election campaign.
This is the full transcript of the meeting, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
BuzzFeed News contacted individuals named in the recording for comment, and their responses, where provided, are included in our main story on the Metropol tape. Read that here.
The six men can be heard speaking in English, Russian, and Italian. Where they spoke in Russian or Italian, the dialogue has been translated into English.
SAVOINI: It is very important that in this historical geopolitical period that Europe is changing. Next May will be the European election. We want to change Europe. A new Europe has to be close to Russia as before because we want to have our sovereignty. We want to really decide for our future, Italians, for our children, for our sons. Not depending on decision of illuminates [the enlightened] of Brussels, of USA. We want to decide. Salvini is the first man that want to change all Europe. Together our allies and colleagues and other parties in Europe. Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs in Austria, German Alternative für Deutschland, France Madame Le Pen, and other other countries the same, Hungaria with Orban, in Sweden Sverigedemokraterna. We have our allies. We really want to begin to have a great alliance with these parties that are pro Russia, but not pro Russia for Russia but for our countries. Because to stay well with Russia, good relations is for our countries. So this is my only beginning to the political situation. Now I want our technical partners who can continue this discussion. Thank you very much.
RUSSIAN INDIVIDUAL 1 [RU1]: Thank you. Now our technique papers are already made as they are ready to be given to Mister Deputy Prime Minister.
SAVOINI: Yes, yes.
RU1: But we have to discuss latest decisions maybe.
SAVOINI: Please, please.
RU1: To check our [INAUDIBLE] to prepare for deputy prime minister.
RU1: (in Russian) So, on our end everything is ready, but we need to discuss the final details.
RUSSIAN INDIVIDUAL 3 [RU3]: (in Russian) Then let’s talk about it.
RUSSIAN INDIVIDUAL 2 [RU2]: Just one question concerning the legal. Yesterday’s talks confront both types of fuel, aviation kerosene or diesel.
RU1: (in Russian) No, no, no! There were no specifics mentioned. We’ll manage it.
RU2: OK so in general, speaking.
RU1: Ya, in general...
RU2: So now we can go with the names about the particular maybe two companies who will be delivering, firstly delivering from Russia because will not be the final contractor, so after this we will understand who will be the contractor with the company you send us.
ITALIAN INDIVIDUAL 2 [IT2]: You mean the bank.
RU2: Bank, investment bank. So after this as you mentioned, we will be also possible to discuss whatever done will be the most suitable for both sides in terms of delivery.
SAVOINI: Ilya [sp.?], sometimes is better that Luca can translate for Francesco.
RU2: OK, OK, sometimes...
SAVOINI: (in Italian) “Better otherwise he... [INAUDIBLE]
IT2: My god, milon [sp?] unpaid work.
SAVOINI: I need that Francesco knows everywhere, now.
IT2: OK, so can I suggest, Ilya, can I suggest that you make just small phrases so that I can…
RU?: Sure, sure, sure, OK.
IT2: So let’s cancel, let’s restart from the beginning. Nonno. How do you say “nonno” in Russia? Gadushka [sp.?]?
ITLIAN INDIVIDUAL 3 [IT3]: Sprits, spirits.
IT2: Yes, yes, humor.
Savoini: English humor.
RU?: Yes, English humour.
IT2: You know this is the only thing that I can do. [repeats same sentence in Italian] To speak English so you don’t understand and I take some freedoms... Sorry.
IT3: (in Italian) I know.
RU2: In general.
IT2: (in Italian) Generally speaking...
RU2: We have Eni who will be on the Italian side, yes? We have Russian oil company on our side, and we have two companies in the middle. The bank, you are the bank, and one Russian company who will be, who will sign the contract with the bank.
[IT2 translates to Italian]
IT2: The fourth company is... We can say seller mandate for the fourth company? We are not going to buy directly from a major, right?
IT2: We are not going to buy directly from the major.
INAUDIBLE ITALIAN IN BACKGROUND
IT2: Francesco says no problem to have a fourth company in between. The most important is that it is a well-known company, because otherwise we are going to have problems with KYC [Know Your Client] and AM…[Anti-Money Laundering rules]
RU1: What is criteria? Can we receive some criterias which we should fulfill?
IT2: Well, the best would be major to major and the bank in between. Right. The best would be major to major. Why? Because we make a purchase contract with Russian major, we make sale contract to Italian buyer, major, and this is going to be a back-to-back contract so clearly shown to everybody, maybe without the price but it’s clearly the contracts are linked. If we need another company in between, then we need to have need to have a, you know, reasonably well-known company. I make an example. If it is Lukoil selling, we would like to have Litasco. OK. Just to...
[ESPRESSOS AND BEVERAGES ARRIVE AT THE TABLE]
Or if it is…
RU2: Rosneft, for instance.
IT2: If the company in between is Trafigura, no problem for anybody. It should be a well-known, otherwise we run the risk.
RU2: What is better? Just to discuss. This company will be in Russia or in the European...
IT: Europe, definitely.
RU2: So what are we talking about...
RU1: I got it. The only thing I didn’t get is what’s a back-to-back contract.
RU2: If the deal will be signed between, let’s say, Rosneft and their company, the investment bank he mentioned will be the formal buyer bank and it will get the additional margin. In fact, the oil will go from one [INAUDIBLE] to another company. They will make all the calculations. Essentially, the money will go from the bank that is financing [INAUDIBLE] to the bank that is financing [INAUDIBLE]
RU1: Four instruments?
RU2: That’s preferable. Why? Because if the company, which is buying from our big oil producers, Rosneft or Lukoil, and later selling, a fourth company appears, then this is... [INAUDIBLE] They have a certain monitoring procedure and if the company doesn’t match the...
RU2: [INAUDIBLE] they will have problems.
RU1: And this company is from our side?
RU3: Won’t they be able to?
RU2: Yes, but he’s saying that if this company is at the level of Trafigura — a trading structure of TNK or Rosneft — then that’s fine. Meaning, if this is a well-known, normal company, that has reasons for which this deal is happening through it.
RU3: [INAUDIBLE] Can’t we show?
RU2: If it will look like a shell company, there will be risks.
RU3: How should we act, then?
RU2: We should choose the company that meets the conditions. Janko [sp.?] said that ideally this should be a company that is in the EU.
RU2: This company can’t be from Eastern Europe.
RU1: But in general, this is a task we can solve?
RU2: Everything is solvable.
RU2: Is bit more we discussed because also we speak a lot about some options.
IT2: But Ilya, look, it’s...it’s, I just want to make it clear that if there is any suggested methods from your side, we might be very flexible. Now it’s more up to you in order to guess or to make the best strategy to sell the products. The bank is an English bank so is subject to FCA or to BaFin in Germany. So as far as we are dealing major to major, there is no problem. Everybody knows Rosneft. Everybody knows Eni. Everybody knows. If there is another in the middle...
RU2: A trader.
IT2: If is a trader is better, but if you need to have an unknown company, it might also be possible, but then we will need to carry out a “know your client” procedure. It will take a few weeks, so but...
RU2: It will be... We will have to change the timings.
IT2: Because the best for us, and once more if it is easier for you to sell FOB Black Sea, it’s OK with us because maybe we will ask for 0 point discount to cover the logistics, so the shipping costs maybe. But maybe it’s cheaper for you instead of putting in Rotterdam, you can just say you come to Novorossiysk. You say to come, this is the quantity you come with your own ships, vessels, you upload, you go, this might be also an option. If it’s more convenient for you. We just...once again, the bank is our bank, so we are flexible. And we can, you know, be very flexible.
RU2: Since the bank is located in the UK, it must comply with the requirements of [INAUDIBLE] So there shouldn’t be any problem with a large trader. But if the company is at some sort of other level [size], then, according to the standards of the checking process, it won’t pass through formal criteria. It is possible, but if it will take a lot of time, they won’t be happy about this. But they are flexible about everything else, like the port of Rotterdam or the port of Novorossiysk or some other port in Russia. The difference in spending [INAUDIBLE] is not significant. From the point of view of where to send it from, we can also choose Novorossiysk. But the only question is the bank. [INAUDIBLE] because of this, the whole process can stop. [INAUDIBLE] There would be a flaw.
IT2: (in Italian) I told him we could buy from Black Sea if easier for them. We would send the ships to pick it up. They would apply a small discount on top of that one to cover logistics if easier. We have contacts with majors in Rotterdam. They are my clients. Verwater, who built all the Rotterdam port, are my clients. It’s not a big problem.
IT2: The second issue and second and last issue for us, if maybe we have spoken about in the past but now it’s the case to speak about this again. The best formula for us would be to buy open credit. Why? Because we sell open credit. What does it mean? It means that Eni takes the product and pays in a window, temporal window, one per month. There is normally 17th to 27th of each month to pay. So we, if Eni takes on the 16th, then we are going to be paid in these 10 days. If Eni takes on the 28th, then we have to wait... So in technical language this is open credit formula. We would need to have the same. Why? Because of course the major sells to Eni. Eni buys. Then Eni pays into the same bank possibly and the bank has already the order that once Eni’s invoice is settled into their account, they will settle the other type. And there is something remaining and then we will see as a bank how to handle it for the needs, OK.
So only once again, only these two issues. The first one once again we are flexible. And flexible in the sense that if Rotterdam is not convenient, we go, we come and pick the product. The second one should be open credit formula, and in such a case either we involve Intesa Russia, Banca Intesa Russia, and I think all the majors here. Rosneft, they might have an account, Eni does. Or if it is from Austria or it is from Switzerland. Because if it is Litasco, Litasco is Switzerland generally, or if it is Austria for Rosneft, Austria for instance. Then the same in terms of banks. If it is Austria, we have very good links with Mr. Moscovic, that is the owner of Winter Bank, there we can ask him to open a bank account for Eni, a bank account for the seller and do good rates. So it’s also easy. But the best would be just to give a so-called irrevocable order to the bank by which once the payment is received, the pace is made. No need to enter into this anymore. You just give an irrevocable order.
And from our side is all I think.
RU2: [INAUDIBLE] It’s ideal, of course, when both parties open an account in the same bank. If we are talking about [INAUDIBLE], then it is easier to work with Intesa. They can give recommendations to a trader without an account, so it can open it [accounts] quickly. There are also European banks they can help with. We need to think about this carefully. [INAUDIBLE]
RU1: I do not understand all of this! You are the one who has to understand all of this!
RU2: Everything will be fine!
RU1: I'm getting lost with the technicalities. Just start asking the questions that are more or less important for you.
RU3: When will [INAUDIBLE] Nikolaevich arrive?
RU1: Tomorrow or today.
RU1: Then Ilya, you should ask the questions you’re interested in. Do you understand everything now?
RU3: And if we will call [INAUDIBLE]?
RU2: Well, in terms of what we need...
RU1: Discuss everything right now! When will you discuss later? Discuss everything so that all the questions are answered.
RU2: We are talking about the quantity. For example, 3 million [metric] tons. If we run now this deal 3 million, then the deal is closed, we don’t have any huge risks. What do you think about? It’s only for half a year, yeah?
IT2: It depends on you. It depends on your capability. We have the capabilities, technical capabilities, to absorb whatever quantity given that the product is the product needed. Whatever quantities you are available too, but of course I don’t think your efforts are unlimited. Why are you talking about six months?
RU2: For example, we are talking 3 million tons during half a year.
IT2: Half a year or one year? It’s one year.
RU2: One year.
IT2: Because otherwise is 6 million in one year, which is 500,000 per month. We can accept this, we can absorb 500,000 per month for one year.
RU2: If after this year you are interested in prolonging in future?
IT2: Absolutely yes, but also if in the same year you say, look, guys, we have difficulty in placing this product say it is mazut nobody wants mazut. Let’s make an example during the year we are already buying and you say can you buy this as well, we are absolutely capable from a technical point of view to buy the product.
RU1: We are actually prepared for a lot more. I’m very nervous with these questions. How many tons? And the question was — what next? [INAUDIBLE]
RU1: Tell him — everything is clear with the general party. We will get permission for the start of the work, the start of intensive actions. But what if we will find our own [INAUDIBLE]. Verkhniy told me that we can ask — that if we find our own volumes, independent from any kind of political force, then we can get some kind of commission? How do you see this?
RU1: Now for example, we are talking about this political message about this whatever to [INAUDIBLE] but we also have some of our own contacts in the oil and gas companies [INAUDIBLE] maybe they will propose some options for delivering also gas if you are interested. Is possible to discuss?
RU2: But the question is, the contacts also are interested in some commission. If it’s possible from your side.
IT2: To recognize commission to an intermediary?
IT2: No problem. It depends of course if I buy open credit, for instance, I am going to save quite a significant amount of money. Why? I am saving money because I am not forced to access the markets and buy an instrument, a standby electric credit, it’s more than banking guarantee, a documentary one because all this has a cost. So if I do not have this cost, why not paying for commission? So absolutely yes.
RU2: So for example, this level of 4% discount from Rotterdam price. It’s a basic level which you cover all costs? And we have some [INAUDIBLE] this is a replicable contract [INAUDIBLE]. Possible, for example, 5% discount, it’s possible?
IT2: Whatever is above 4, we can return it.
RU2: There is a certain level at which [INAUDIBLE] is hard to pay, [INAUDIBLE] but from any higher level, there won’t be any questions here.
RU1: And how will they do it technically in this case?
RU2: Technically what type of contract [INAUDIBLE] it’s possible to discurd [sp.?] this commission?
IT2: We have two ways. The first one is to have a normal NC NBIA or IMPFA according to the ICC of Paris. IMPFA is an international master fee protection agreement, so is a contract standard contract issued by the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris and is exactly is clearly expressed who are counterparties, who is the so to say mandate, what is the percentage how is paid, so on and so forth. This is normally what you do. But once again we have a bank so the counterparty, that is the one that takes the commission, should be a perfect company otherwise the bank will have a problem in signing.
Second option it’s lawyer to lawyer. I can also enter into an agreement with a lawyer, local whatever. I am a lawyer and I can make a contract lawyer to lawyer saying...
RU1: Legal aspect, yes?
RU2: A law firm with a law firm.
RU1: Yes, I understood [INAUDIBLE].
IT2: So lawyer to lawyer it’s even easier because me as a lawyer can enter into an agreement normally. It’s called correspondents fee agreement, so given I that am paid through a council fee agreement from him, given that I need your competencies and qualities because you are a colleague and are very… and from payment from him I will pay to you and it’s easy. It’s even stronger, so up to you. It depends.
RU1: Maybe, we should also use this option everywhere?
RU3: If we will make more, then [INAUDIBLE]. If we’ll get 6% discount, what will we get?
RU1: It depends on the market price, he said.
RU3: For example [INAUDIBLE] this situation.
RU2: The question is whether we can use the company that is involved in the traide with Naftogaz. This is the trading company [INAUDIBLE]. It is a standard contract. This is one thing. But this would not make a huge difference with the fourth company. The second option is more comfortable. Two [INAUDIBLE] companies in fact cooperating. It’s our companies and it is making a certain profit [INAUDIBLE] finding the partner. They are getting certain percentage.
RU1: It’s also a good option.
RU2: Yes, and we have the law firm.
RU3: The law firm.
RU2: Maybe it’s also this, the second option would become more acceptable.
IT2: It’s standard.
RU2: What is usual practice?
IT2: Usual practice I don’t need to check my counterparty according to my ethic code, when I have a lawyer in front of me, I do not need to make any due diligence. He is a lawyer.
RU2: [INAUDIBLE] For example, if we receive 6% discount, what could, what type of commission is possible to make?
IT2: It’s very simple, the planning made by our political guys was that given a 4% discount 250,000 plus 250,000 per month per one year, they can sustain a campaign.
So if you ask me now what is, what is the percent if we make 6%. My first answer would be whatever is above 4%, we don’t need it. This would be the answer. We don’t need it, because we made a plan that with 4% we are satisfied. I would say we don’t need. Of course if you know...
RU2: I think we have to have a common mutual interest with them.
RU1: Is everything fine with logistics? How will he get 4%?
RU2: It will work out.
RU3: He’ll just claim the cost is 4% and this is it.
RU2: From what I understood, they don’t want to earn money, but they are interested. I mean they must be interested too.
RU3: Sure, if we’ll make 6%.
RU2: Let’s say [INAUDIBLE], so they can get some money out of this deal.
RU2: Of course I understand that also mini-deals should be for both sides of course. We think that you also have to get some additional commission in this case included above 4%.
IT2: Why not? But you know, so far it’s not professional issue, is just a political issue. So we, I do not count we, he’s not counting to make money out of it. We count on sustaining a political campaign, which is of benefit, I would say of mutual benefit for the two countries.
Having said so, if the reason there is space for you to organize a bigger discount, my first answer is 4% for us is enough, provided there is an open credit so we do not have costs for the financial instrument. I would say they have made their plans on 4% net, so if you now say it’s 10% discount, I would say 6% is yours. OK? Of course we can sit at the table, but I think this is not my field anymore, but it’s easy because they have the authority to discuss. But if the first question is what do I get if I make a greater discount, I would say you get all, anything on top 4%, we don’t need it.
RU1: Is it prosecutable legally or criminally?
RU2: It’s standard. The thing that [INAUDIBLE] is talking about is one company signing the contract with another company, getting a fee and doing nothing.
RU1: All right.
RU2: In this case the fourth company is not necessary. We have to talk about this with the Comrade.
RU1: OK. Now we need to confirm fuel type? Or we have no questions about the fuel?
RU3: We know the quantity.
RU2: Well, we discussed 250,000 per month and the contract for a year. We will get diesel, if we won’t be able to get aviation kerosene.
RU1: Do we have any alternatives?
RU3: Talk again about diesel and kerosene.
RU1: Do they know about that?
RU2: We also discussed the type of fuel which you are interested in. Probably will be possible to get some quantity for aviation fuel, either 100,000, 200,000, but anyway we will try to get because you mentioned that it’s big amount [INAUDIBLE] for aviation fuel.
RU1: (in Russian) I’m simply thinking about the fact that the more we offer the boss, the more we will have, and if we will offer specifically, then...
RU2: So we will try to make contract for both type.
IT2: And if it is difficult for the aviation fuel, don’t worry. Maybe we can either find a different product or maybe we can put as we were saying in Rome, we replace with ULSD. if it is 500,000 of ULSD, is OK with us.
RU2: This is not a problem if...
RU1: Will he [one of the Italians] add something else to the list just in case? I mean not quantity, but type of products. Will he add something else to the list?
RU2: I ask about, about maybe in air aviation, we have a problem because it’s...
IT2: Don’t do it.
RU2: It’s [INAUDIBLE] license, I have another specification fuel for this list.
IT2: You just tell me and I will check the market if this is a product that I can sell.
RU2: But you have to give us the name of this type of fuel and we add to this list that we will give to the [INAUDIBLE] prime minister. We are thinking about this.
RU2: We thinking about this. Today two points of fuel, first is diesel, second is aviation, but maybe we will add another type of diesel would be a solution.
IT2: I can check. I have to ask the responsible of the, it’s called the distillates desk. The desk of distillates is aviation, is benzine, is gasoil. I will ask him whether this is another type of product we are in a position to sell at a good price, because if the price is very big and we get 4% discount you know there is no deal. But I will check. But who am I supposed to... Because at this stage I think the best would be to write via email with him. So the .su domain. Because he has an email .su.
RU1: (in Russian) So! Let’s talk about the new type [of fuel]. If there will be a need for it, he will let you know.
IT2: We can also use WhatsApp. WhatsApp is better.
RU2: WhatsApp or Telegram.
RU1: Did you get contact information? Did you leave your contact information? What are the other questions we have?
RU3: We need to tell them that we are expecting Vladimir Nikolaevich’s return. We are waiting for him. Hopefully we’ll get the green light next week.
RU1: I was thinking about something else... I feel like I need to fly back.
RU2: We are waiting for Mr. Pligin to return when to discuss.
IT2: He is away? He left Russia?
IT2: Ah, Moscow. Not Russia. I had looked into this case. Then I will just say no, he is not on red alert in interpol he’s not...
RU2: So it‘s possible to [INAUDIBLE]
IT: It’s possible if he wants to come to Italy we can organize it, but it is possible nobody is checking the name of his passport. OK.
RU2: Let’s talk again about the business trip to Italy.
RU3: We already talked about it, Sasha, don’t go off script! Everything's going to be fine.
RU1: I talked to Vladimiv Nikolaevich. He said he doesn't want to [go to Italy].
RU3: Oh! He doesn’t want to?! We have to explain that to our Italian colleagues that [INAUDIBLE] we were talking about just now.
RU2: So we will discuss this [INAUDIBLE] three companies, those who discuss the price, potential commission might be more than 4% discount.
IT2: Might be better. I think both sides have to be comfortable with whatever we need to do. It’s not easy. There are lots of hidden problems. The vessel is late. Or the vessel uploads and port authorities, Russian port authorities, say no, you cannot go. There are lots of hidden problems. Let’s make it easy from the beginning.
RU2: So Eni will use its own ships?
IT2: Eni has its own ships, but normally it depends on where the upload boat is, because might, might be more convenient to ask, for instance, Esse Di Maria [sp?], one of the biggest logistics companies, or some other company depending on where to go. So Eni has their own ships but normally the Eni ships are up to 50,000, so the best in order to save on delivery cost would be to have at least one Aframax, Aframax is a cargo category up to 250,000.
RU2: For example, is for Baltic Sea, we can also only up to 120.
RU2: Yes. As for Novorossiysk, we will check.
IT2: You have Transneft there, so maybe they just open the pipeline, they upload and they go.
RU1: We should discuss ports.
RU2: We are talking about this now. There are options of delivery to Baltic and Black Sea.
RU3: [INAUDIBLE] small ships.
RU2: There are additional costs. If it is the port in Rotterdam, we could get costs higher due to the fact that there will be a commission. We’ll get it. Although Janko said 4% is enough for them. There will be no problem.
IT2: I think that maybe the next effort should be our joint effort should be concentrated on timetable. If we are very quick, but we need to be very, very quick, then I think first delivery might be in November and which I don’t think it’s up to you but we have to be very quick.
RU2: Also I agree with you because we have to act very quickly.
RU2: According to Janko, it’s better to create [INCOMPREHENSIBLE] from the very beginning.
RU1: We should act quickly. We agree with Gianluca.
RU2: If it is simpler, it will start working sooner.
RU2: We discussed that we have to act very quickly
IT2: You know I am available at your disposal. If you send me a WhatsApp tomorrow, come here to Moscow, I have a multi-entry visa I can come and come here.
RU2: For your visa you can go via embassy, you can do it one day.
IT2: I don’t want my to pass by your embassy. You know your embassy in Italy is my client. I have a multi-entry. I just take...
IT2: Francesco is saying that quickness is of utmost importance because elections are just around the corner, so he says if we are OK to start very quickly and maybe then in 6 months’ time, there is some problem, it’s OK some problem any delay, but it’s better to concentrate the efforts once and for all and starting as soon as possible.
IT3: Is the problem (switches to Italian)... Now then afterwards 2–3 months it’s OK.
RU1: I have an opportunity to come to Italy in November. Does it make any sense?
RU3: Who has an opportunity? You have? So what?
RU2: So what?
[Some of the men are smoking a cigarette]
RU3: I understand English, but don’t speak.
IT2: Understand is enough. You come to Italy some time? With wife, children?
RU3: March. Next year.
IT3: I don’t speak English.
RU3: (in Italian) I don’t speak Italian.
IT2: We are now concentrating on the quickness. Given they will tell us whether it is 250 or 500 thousand. Given they will tell us if there is some other product, they will tell us if there is an extra discount to be returned. Everything is OK. I told and Andrey agreed quickness is of utmost importance. If we are quick now maybe first delivery in November; if we are not quick then maybe it’s December, and then December we know in Italy it’s Christmas and everybody is very lazy.
SAVOINI: In Russia too. In Russia Christmas in January. Holiday Italian then Russian, we have one month of holidays. 15 December, 15 January, Italy and Russia together is holidays.
IT2: I told them that I am available upon call. I mean if they need me to take a flight to come to Moscow tomorrow, no problem. I will be concentrating on this, I am there. They can make whatever. If they need me, I am there also with the manager who can execute. I pick up the phone London, I take a plane and I am here. And the rest is up to you. You try to find the best solution.
I am sure that these elections will be good elections. The European one in May.
SAVOINI: Yes of course, of course. We are changing really the situation in Europe. And It’s impossible to stop. The history is marching, so it’s impossible. It’s really a new deal, a new situation, a new future for us. We are in the center of this process. But we have a lot of enemies, we are in a dangerous situation because our government is attacked from Brussels, from the globalist men, not Trump, but the establishment of Obama is very, very strong and inside in Italy too. We are in dangerous... it is not so simple, but we want to fight because we are in truth.
IT2: if you have any gulag, we can send you some from Italy. The gulag. Gulag. It’s a joke, but if you have a gulag, we send you a lot of people.
IT?: For reeducation.
IT?: Mental rehabilitation.
IT2: I am very hopeful.
Savoini: The feelings are good.
IT2: I don’t understand this return, who it goes to.
SAVOINI: To them. They take even 400 or whatever the fuck they need to take. It doesn’t matter. It’s a guarantee. It means they will always do that and for us, it’s OK.
IT2: Of course. With the first delivery, Gianluca, we take the bank. I want to be in the control room.
SAVOINI: He already told me where you will be.
IT2: With the first delivery you take it all. From the second you’re free. The current president, who has made his margins, we put him on a contract, £20,000 a month, great, after that ‘I”ll tell you,’ we tell him what to do. The bank will then be needed it for N other operations.
SAVOINI: There is total control.
IT2: They have a banking problem, they could need a bank with a double passport after Brexit. At that point you position yourself on a financial lane that is a lot more lucrative than material trade. Because material trade has always risk, you go to the bakers and the bread is finished. On the financial branch vice versa, you charge zero comma on transactions and you wait at home for the transfer to arrive. After that Francesco will see how to organize the return. There need to be prudent.
SAVOINI: Obviously. There I won’t know anything, nothing. Need to be more than prudent. We will have all the [inaudible] and their satellites on us. But I trust all of our abilities in our respective fields. We have created this triumvirate, me, you, and him, it needs to work that way. Just us three. A watertight compartment. Yesterday too Aleksander said the important thing is that it’s just you [three]. You, me, represent the total connection for both the Italian and their ‘political side,’ and you — with me — are my partners. Just us. You, Francesco, and me. Nobody else.
IT2: If we meet, we don’t talk about this stuff.
SAVOINI: It’s not that we won’t meet. You know Francesco better than me. It’s not that we won’t meet again. We will meet the right amount. We get along well.
IT2: You need to remove that fucking bib. Come with us and you will find friends, I’m sure.
RU3: We will say it’s a law firm.
RU2: Yes, we’ll change everything. Andrey!
RU1: Are we done here? Should we pay and leave?
RU2: Speaking about [INAUDIBLE].
IT3: (in Italian) I want to say how important it is to us to do this by December even if it is then delayed 2, 3 months, June, July we don’t care.
[Italian and Russian end]
RU2: Concerning the future contract, I think we have all the information. We will be waiting for discussion with Mr. Evgeny [sp.?] after this. I understand the urgency. So more easy, the better. I think [INAUDIBLE].
IT2 [taking notes]: OK. Just so to have it clear, I will await for you to confirm the product, quantities and whatever you are able to. You confirm product, quantities, and price. Because you know. And I can make a nota bene it’s OK 4%, maybe higher, “to be returned.”
RU2: The best play the contract with some law firm. It’s the best.
IT2: I think so. For me, it’s very easy.
RU2: For us it seems to be very easy. Better for you. Otherwise restrictions.
IT2: I don’t need to make any due diligence if I deal as a lawyer with another lawyer, I give it for granted that the bar association to which my colleague belongs has already guaranteeing on his... So I don’t need to make any due diligence. OK open, open credit.
IT2: Open credit. And then it’s bank instructed.
IT2: I-n-t-e-s-a irrevocably to pay out once received funds. Intesa BCI Russia. And I think they have their own man inside, so it should be easy.
RU1: What is Intesa?
RU2: It’s an Italian bank.
RU1: Is it represented in Russia?
RU2: Yes! Gianluca has his own people there. He said it will be easier.
IT2: Lega they have already in the steering committee a man in there is called Mascetti and so we can talk to him. But if it’s another bank, if it’s another bank, European bank maybe, Switzerland or Austrian, then don’t worry, we do have the contacts in both in Switzerland and in Austria. OK Intesa BCI, and this is a nota bene you confirm products and business.
RU2: Delivery we discussed if Russian ports or [INAUDIBLE].
IT2: OK delivery terms either FOB Rotterdam or FOB, I would say Black Sea ports. Black Sea ports. What else? I would also say NB quickness is of utmost importance. First delivery in...
RU1: He is Italian, not Italian, but the European Trump, because he has now become the head of all the ultra right [in Europe].
RU1: Of the ultra right — Le Pen, AFD. The third biggest in Finland.
RU2: In Sweden.
RU1: He is the head of all the right.
IT2: I will just make a screenshot here and send it to you just to be on the same page. OK gentlemen, I think it’s going in the right direction and...
RU1: And it’s my luck to make them act quickly and immediately.
IT2: You will. Maybe we can also meet in Rome if you feel like or in London, maybe at the bank or maybe we can meet at Eni also. This is just details. Let’s work at the fundamentals, then once fundamentals are OK, the rest are details to be agreed upon.
[Inaudible Italian in background]
SAVOINI: Not possible. Dollars you cannot in Russia.
IT2: You cannot work with US dollars in Russia?
RU2: We can work in any currency.
IT2: He says if bank is Russian, you cannot deal in dollars,
Savoini: [INAUDIBLE] ...in Ucraina...
RU2: We cannot deal in dollars between Russian companies.
IT2: In any case, we can also use euros. We can convert. But should see if applicable platz index is also given in euros, it might be not only in dollars. But these are technicalities once more. The last will then we said delivery terms Rotterdam or Black... [Goes back to Italian]
SAVOINI [in Italian] he [Savoini] can be heard suggesting smaller initial shipment if easier. Repeats concern about USD. “Swift code doesn’t transfer.”
IT?: We need to after this meeting talk to the guy who begins with “Ma” and ends with “etti” so that they meet after the fundamentals are closed. Why am I interested? Because Eni already has accounts with Intesa, and they do too probably.
IT2: He is saying to put some attention on the financial transaction not to incur any problems. Can I say yes, we will work on it?
RU2: If we make it in one bank, for example Intesa, it will not be a problem.
IT2: I agree we have to involve the bank. Second step calling the bank, this is the need and do not charge that much. You know It’s easy. Then it’s once again political.
[BILL ARRIVES TO TABLE]
[Discussion, laughter, light discussion on who pays.]
IT?: We do it, Andrey! [INAUDIBLE].
RU?: This is not Rome.
SAVOINI: Moscow is the third Rome.
IT2: Beautiful weather. I just want to have a little walk. If you want.
RU?: I don’t like these packets. I don’t like these pictures [referring to the warning label on the cigarette pack]. In Italy it’s even worse.
RU1: I can’t buy cigarettes in Rome. Dunhill. When I saw it, I was what a terrible picture. This country is very more favorable to smokers, no pictures at all.
IT2: You know the joke. In Italy we have different pictures and there is one with a pregnant woman saying don’t smoke or you run the risk of not getting pregnant, and we male always ask for that one, the one that, that we are not going to be pregnant, please. Can I have the one no pregnancy please?
It’s stupid to smoke, to be honest. We should stop. On the other hand, is very difficult. Now Philip Morris make this electronic cigarette. I want to try.
RU1: Yuri has experience. He gave up smoking in one day. After 13 years of smoking. But now he start again.
IT2: Let’s close the deal and we stop together.
IT2: We stop smoking and we start going with the girls.
RU1: His wife will be glad.
[Chairs moving; men can be heard talking about holidays in Sicily and Sardinia, hotel names, flight times]
IT?: Let’s go.
[Men can be heard walking away from table]
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/bu ... al-meeting