The conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Total SA’s chief executive, Christophe de Margerie, started the second the news broke of his death. Under mysterious circumstances in Moscow, his private jet collided with a snowplow just after midnight. De Margerie was the CEO of Total, France’s largest oil company.
He’d just attended a private meeting with Russian Prime Minister Medvedev, at a time when the West’s relationship with Russia is fraught, to say the least.
One has better odds of being struck by lightning at an airport then a snow plow, or any other ground support vehicles hitting a plane and killing all inside the plane, in my opinion. And I say that as someone who’s familiar with airports, having worked at Vancouver International Airport when I was in university; I was the one who would bring the plane into its parking bay.
If it weren’t for those short odds, a snowplow on the runway with an allegedly drunk driver would be the perfect crime. But who would benefit from his death?
De Margerie was one of the few business leaders who spoke out against the isolation of Russia. On this last trip to Moscow, he railed against sanctions and the obstacles to Russian companies obtaining credit.
He was also an outspoken supporter of Russia’s position in natural gas pricing and transportation disputes with Ukraine, telling Reuters in an interview in July that Europe should not cut its dependence on Russian gas but rather focus on making the supplies more secure.
But what could have made de Margerie a total liability is Total’s involvement in plans to build a plant to liquefy natural gas on the Yamal Peninsula of Russia in partnership with Novatek. Its most ambitious project in Russia to date, it would facilitate the shipping of 800 million barrels of oil equivalent of LNG to China via the Arctic.
Compounding this sin, Total had just announced that it’s seeking financing for a gas project in Russia in spite of the current sanctions against Russia. It planned to finance its share in the $27-billion Yamal project using euros, yuan, Russian rubles, and any other currency but US dollars.
Did this direct threat to the petrodollar make this “true friend of Russia”—as Putin called de Margerie—some very powerful and dangerous enemies amongst the power that be, whether in the French government, the EU, or the US?
In my book The Colder War, one chapter deals with “mysterious deaths” and how they are linked to being on the wrong side of the political equation. Whether it’s going against Putin or against the petrodollar, there are many who have fallen on both sides.
If Total doesn’t close the $27 billion financing it needs to move forward with the Yamal LNG project then we’ll know someone stepped in to prevent an attack on the petrodollar. The CEO of Total, before his death and his CFO were both strong supporters of Total raising the $27 billion in non US dollars and moving the project forward with the Russians. But, this could all change if the financing does not complete.
How many other Western executives who dare to help Russia bypass sanctions—and turn it into an energy powerhouse—will die under suspicious circumstances?
Marin Katusa, is author of The Colder War, manager of multiple global energy-exploration hedge funds, and co-founder of Copper Mountain Mining Corporation.