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Doctored Photo Of Fake Ukrainian Gas Deal Goes Viral

A doctored photo of Jordi Sarda Bonvehi, a Spanish ski instructor who duped the Ukrainian government into thinking it had signed a major gas deal has made a splash on the web.
A doctored photo of Jordi Sarda Bonvehi, a Spanish ski instructor who duped the Ukrainian government into thinking it had signed a major gas deal has made a splash on the web.
A Spanish ski instructor who embarrassed the Ukrainian government by duping it into publicizing a bogus gas deal worth $1 billion is now the subject of a photoshopped picture by Ukrainian blogger Roman Shraik that has gone viral.

Shraik, who posted the altered image on Facebook on December 7, played around with an official photo from the signing ceremony on November 26.

His doctored version of the original official photograph shows the Spanish impostor, 43-year-old Jordi Sarda Bonvehi, signing the deal while sporting a ski helmet. The spoof picture has since been liked and shared hundreds of times.

In the tweaked photo (shown above), the head of Ukraine's state agency for national projects and co-signatory to the agreement, Vladislav Kaskiv, is sitting right next to Bonvehi, while Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (left) and Energy Minister Yuriy Boiyko (right) keenly look over his shoulder.

Bonvehi spent two months negotiating with Ukrainian officials on behalf of Spain's Gas Natural Fenosa company about participation in the construction of a liquefied gas (LNG) terminal on the Black Sea Coast.

In a statement, the Ukrainian state investment agency initially identified the man as Gas Natural Fenosa executive Jordi Garcia Tabernero.

Much to the surprise of Ukrainian officials, however, Gas Natural Fenosa came out with a statement two days later on November 28, saying that Tabernero was not in Ukraine at the time.

At first, Kaskiv responded by saying that the agency had misidentified the man in its initial statement, because they had been expecting Tabernero but he had been replaced by someone else at the last minute.

Kaskiv now admits that Bonvehi had no legal right to sign the deal. Bonvehi, however, had been regularly attending meetings with Ukrainian officials.

Reuters has reported a telephone conversation with a man who identified himself as Bonvehi and admitted that he had not been given permission to sign on behalf of Gas Natural Fenosa.

The man claimed that he believed he could sign the agreement "and then settle it with the company."

The ceremony for signing the nonbinding memorandum of understanding was quite an event. A live video streamed at the ceremony showed welders supposedly working on a pipeline with sparks flying.

Kaskiv, who was reportedly shocked by Gas Natural Fenosa's statement, hailed the signing ceremony as "energy independence day for Ukraine."

According to Reuters, Bonvehi apparently moved to Ukraine 10 years ago and married a Ukrainian woman.

His father, Joan Sarda, was quoted by the Spanish newspaper "Regio7" as saying that Bonvehi had set up two businesses in Spain in 2008, but had never shown any real interest in commerce.

Reports of the "false representative" initially emerged in Spain on November 29, one day after the Spanish company came out with a statement saying it had "no contract to invest in the proposed LNG terminal" and indicating that it might take legal action against Bonvehi once the situation is clarified.

The LNG terminal would have been an important step for Ukraine towards diversifying its energy supplies and turning away from its reliance on Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.

In November, Yuriy Boiyko announced plans to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian gas.

Over the past few years, disputes between Ukraine and Gazprom have also led to gas shortages in Europe, as more than 80 percent of Russian gas is delivered to the EU through Ukraine’s pipeline network.

-- Deana Kjuka

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