Was Total’s Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie Killed for Opposing Petrodollar and Sanctions Against Russia?

By Oleg Lurie
Global Research, October 24, 2014
Oriental Review 23 October 2014

A small private plane, a Falcon 50 en route to Paris, crashed on takeoff Tuesday night at the Vnukovo airport. Witnesses claim the pilots did not notice a snowplow on the runway. Everyone on board was killed – the two pilots, a flight attendant, and the sole passenger, Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of Total, France’s largest oil company.

Sources from the Russian Investigative Committee report that they are currently weighing four potential explanations for the accident: pilot error, dispatcher error, misconduct on the part of the snowplow driver, or weather conditions – some parts of the Moscow region were shrouded in fog that night.

The investigation released a statement claiming that the snowplow driver, Vladimir Martynenko, had been intoxicated. The plane crash at Vnukovo occurred when the wing of the private Falcon 50 jet collided with the snowplow, which, according to the media “was sitting at the intersection of two runways, in a no-access area.” Sources from various media outlets familiar with the details of the crash reported: “The captain of the aircraft decided to go ahead and try to complete his takeoff. But he did not have enough speed. The front wheel of the business jet’s chassis clipped the snowplow, which led to the catastrophe.”

But, according to information from the lawyers and the airport service bureau, the driver, Mr. Martynenko, was very experienced, with a long work history, and was completely sober. He had also passed the usual, mandatory medical inspection before he began his shift, which was documented by the doctor in his journal, and on the basis of which he received his driving log from the mechanic and then began his shift.

Soon however the Russian Investigative Committee posted a video from the scene of the crash on its website and stated, “it is obvious that what happened was not caused by a horrific, tragic confluence of events, as airport spokesmen are trying to present it, but by the criminal negligence of officials who could not properly synchronize the work of the airport employees.”

The voice and parametric flight-data recorders were removed from the Falcon, and French investigators are expected to arrive in Moscow to work alongside the Investigative Committee.

This strange tragedy on the Falcon that took the life of the president of Total oil company, Christophe de Margerie, raises too many questions that have no answers.

What was said and done by Christophe de Margerie

De Margerie was probably one of the most steadfast supporters of preserving relations with Russia, and he opposed the sanctions. In fact, he defiantly came to the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in May, claiming that refusing to attend would be anti-Russian, although many other companies stayed home.

Once sanctions were imposed against Russia, de Margerie condemned that policy. He felt that Europe should not simply emulate the actions of the United States, because the relationship between the EU and Russia is much stronger than that of Russia and the US. He publicly stated: “I believe in people’s wisdom and responsibility. In a global economy one can’t just say: I’m going to suspend operations in Russia, or Iraq, or wherever. Russia cannot be isolated, even if all ties to Europe are lost. People need to understand that an embargo doesn’t work.”

De Margerie also opposed restrictions on Russian gas shipments to Europe. One may recall that such demands were heard during the anti-Russian hysteria among EU politicians. It was argued that European technology is so advanced that they could easily significantly limit those shipments. But “if European gas supplies from Russia are halted, Europe will have to pay more for gas, buying it from more remote regions, and shipping it will become more complicated,” he said. “We will have a problem this winter if there is a cut in supplies and if it is cold – that is obvious. Can we live without Russian gas? The answer is no. Are there any reasons to live without it? I think … it is a no.”

And this summer, de Margerie made what the US considers to be his most subversive statement. He spoke out against the preeminence of the US dollar in international payments. Although the idea would be beneficial to Russia, our country has not yet carried out plans to force those who purchase our resources to pay for them in rubles, in order to strengthen our currency. “There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars,” stated de Margerie in July. “Doing without the (U.S.) dollar, that wouldn’t be realistic, but it would be good if the euro was used more. The dollar occupies too large a niche in the international oil and gas trade. The fact that oil prices are quoted in dollars per barrel does not mean that payments actually have to be made in that currency. There are no valid reasons to pay for hydrocarbons in the American national currency.”

De Margerie sincerely believed and repeatedly stated that Ukraine and Russia are part of Europe and attempts need to be made to resolve the crisis as quickly as possible. And in recent months,Christophe de Margerie actively lobbied to have the Mistral naval assault ship sent to Russia.

And here is the last public statement (link in Russian) made by the chief executive of Total, Christophe-Gabriel-Jean-Marie Jacquin de Margerie: “Russia has a lot of friends and partners in the West. We don’t consider that Russia can be isolated from the major global economic and political process. I’m absolutely confident that the policy of openness, which helped us overcome so many obstacles together in the past, should be continued.”

So whose toes did the president of Total step on?

Never forget that classic, always reliable question – “Cui bono?” (who benefits?) That needs to be asked, not only if one assumes that what happened was merely a deadly accident – because there are just too many strange coincidences surrounding the tragedy of de Margerie’s death. They simply do not fit together and actually make it seem less likely that it was truly a chance occurrence.

Take a look at these coincidences: First of all, there are the statements and actions of the chief executive of Total, de Margerie, which are flatly at odds with the principal position adopted by the United States, both in terms of anti-Russian sanctions, as well as (most importantly!) his statement about the “alternative to using dollars to pay for oil.” Then there is the scene of the accident – Moscow, which is the capital of the “Evil Empire” located somewhere between the Ebola epidemic and Islamic terrorists. There is the “excellent” timing – the same day as de Margerie’s meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at which the chief executive of Total stated, “Actually, if I don’t like sanctions, it is because I believe they are both unfair and unproductive … And that it is a failure of diplomacy, when the only tools left are sanctions.” What happened that day looks a bit like a symbolic hint to all other global business leaders (and leaders of more than business) who are backing Russia. A hint that you can never rest easy if you hold this view of the world – an outlook that is so at odds with the actions and principles of the “Great Power of the USA.” Of course accidents do happen. Sometimes we see an entirely coincidental confluence of events.

I make no claims that there is any direct evidence at present supporting the theory that a premeditated murder of Christophe de Margerie was committed for the benefit of the United States. And none of this even adds up to a coherent theory – it’s just a string of uncontested events and facts that fit together in a completely logical sequence that neatly eliminates the patchwork of all those supposedly random coincidences.

And how could it have been done? With its many years of experience, the American intelligence services can easily stage bigger events than the assassination of the head of a large company in a third country. And there are plenty of ways to arrange such a scenario – ranging from the bribery or blackmail of anyone involved in the events through a host of intermediaries, to interference in various types of networks and internal communication signals, including human-factor causes, as well as technical innovations – none of which the rest of the world knows anything about for now or at which it can only guess. But it seems we’re likely to never know the real answer to the question “Who killed de Margerie?”


Source in Russian: Author’s blog


The original source of this article is Oriental Review
Copyright © Oleg Lurie, Oriental Review, 2014


Total's CEO Christophe de Margerie dies in Moscow plane crash
21 October 2014
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Media captionChristophe de Margerie's plane was trying to take off at Vnukovo airport, as Dmitry Medvedenko, from the Voice of Russia radio station, reports
Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of French oil company Total, has died in an air crash in Moscow.
His corporate jet collided with a snow plough and was then engulfed in flames. All four people on board were killed.
The driver of the snow plough was drunk, according to Russian investigators.
Mr de Margerie, 63, had been chief executive of Europe's third largest oil company since 2007. He was highly regarded within the oil industry.
'Original personality'
A statement from the office of French President Francois Hollande said: "Christophe de Margerie dedicated his life to French industry and to building up the Total group. He made it into one of the very top global companies
"Francois Hollande cherished Christophe de Margerie's independent character, original personality and his devotion to his country."
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences.
News agency Tass quoted a Kremlin spokesman as saying: "The President highly appreciated de Mergerie's business skills, his continued commitment to the development of not only bilateral Russian-French relations, but also on multi-faceted levels."
Analysis: Andrew Walker, Economics correspondent, BBC World Service
Christophe de Margerie leaves a large gap to be filled. He was a hugely influential figure in the global energy industry and a colourful and instantly recognisable character.
For colleagues as well as family, there's no question that it's a huge loss. But already the markets appear to think the company will cope. The board is seen as strong and a wobble in the share price seems to have been no more than that.
It is significant that Mr de Margerie was in Moscow. He took the view that the energy industry needed to go to difficult places. Russia is a prime example. A Total project there - a joint venture with Russia's Lukoil to explore for shale oil - has come to a halt due to Western sanctions.
Mr de Margerie joined Total Group after graduating from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Paris in 1974.
At the company, where he had spent his entire career, he was nicknamed "Big Moustache".
John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, told the BBC: "It's a huge loss to the industry and its future focus.
"What he has done for Total in repositioning the company to return to integrity and sound operations is deeply respected and highly regarded."
Russian investments
According to Russia's Vedomosti newspaper, Mr de Margerie had met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at his country residence outside Moscow to discuss foreign investment in Russia.
Total is an important player in the Russian energy market and Mr de Margerie was a staunch defender of maintaining ties, despite Western sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Total is one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia and is planning to double its output from the country by 2020.
It is working on the Yamal project, a $27bn joint venture to extract natural gas in north-west Siberia.
During his time at the helm of Total Mr de Margerie successfully defended the company against allegations of corruption around the UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq.
He maintained the company's investments in Burma and Iran despite US sanctions against those countries.
Shares in Total were down sharply at the open, but have since recovered.
Vnukovo-3 Business Aviation Center at MoscowImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption
Mr de Margerie was flying from Moscow's Vnukovo airport, southwest of Moscow
Mr de Margerie's jet had been due to fly to Paris from Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport.
Vnukovo, is located to the southwest of Moscow and is used by President Vladimir Putin and other government officials.
Russia's emergencies ministry said in a statement the accident had involved a Falcon-50 plane shortly before midnight local time (20:00 GMT) on Monday.
"Among the chief versions for what happened, investigators are looking at a mistake by the air traffic controllers and the actions of the driver of the snow plough. Apart from that, they will also check the versions of poor weather conditions and mistake by the crew," said Russia's Investigative Committee, a federal agency that answers to President Putin.
"At the current time, it has already been established that the driver of the snow plough was drunk."
Pictures from the scene show the driver looking shocked, but walking unaided and without any obvious serious injury.
Reports say the visibility at the airport was 350m (1,150ft).
New leadership
Total did not have a succession plan in place for Mr de Margerie, but in July he said that a replacement would come from inside the company.
The company plans to hold a board meeting as soon as possible.
Philippe Boisseau, in charge of Total's new energy division, which is developing renewable energy sources, has been mentioned as one possible successor.
Patrick Pouyanne, president of Total's refining and chemicals division, has also been named as a possible new boss.
Related Topics


Total boss killed in plane crash: investigators blame drunk driver
Christophe de Margerie, who was killed when a private jet collided with a snow plough, was one of the world’s most recognisable oil executives

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Jennifer Rankin and Anne Penketh in Paris
Tuesday 21 October 2014 05.49 EDT First published on Tuesday 21 October 2014 02.58 EDT
French authorities have opened a manslaughter investigation after it emerged that the driver of a snow plough involved in a plane crash that killed the head of French oil company Total was drunk.

Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of Total, was killed when his private jet collided with a snow plough in poor visibility at Moscow’s Vnukovo international airport on Monday night. He was the only passenger. All three members of the crew were also killed.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, an agency which answers to President Vladimir Putin, said: “At the moment, it is already established that the driver of the snow plough was in a condition of alcoholic intoxication.”

The committee has opened a criminal investigation into breach of safety standards. According to Russian news agency TASS, the driver of the snow plough is being questioned and several airport employees will “probably” be suspended from work during the investigation.

In a statement the oil company said: “Total confirms with deep regret and great sadness that chairman and CEO Christophe de Margerie died just after 10pm (Paris time) on October 20 in a private plane crash at Vnukovo airport in Moscow, following a collision with a snow removal machine.”


The driver, named as Vladimir Martynenko, denies any guilt, his lawyer said.

“He (Martynenko) is in shock. He considers himself guiltless as he followed all the instructions from the dispatcher,” lawyer Alexander Karabanov told Reuters.

President Francois Hollande led tributes to France’s best known captain of industry. In a statement he described De Margerie, 63, as a talented boss with “great ambitions” for Total, which “he had placed among the ranks of the top world businesses.”

France’s prime minister Manuel Valls, said he had lost a personal friend. “France is losing an extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world giant.”

Pierre Moscovici, France’s former finance minister, paid tribute to de Margerie as “a great captain of industry, a patriot, a man of conviction and friendship”.

Total staff arriving for work in Paris on Tuesday morning expressed shock at the death of their boss, who was known as “big moustache” because of his bushy facial hair.


The Death of Christophe de Margerie
The French oil tycoon's private jet struck a snow plow reportedly operated by a drunk driver.

Jacques Brinon/AP

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One of the largest oil companies in the world is without their leader today, after Christophe de Margerie was killed when his jet collided with a snow removal machine at a Moscow airport and crashed.

The accident occurred when the jet, a Dassault Falcon 50, was attempting take off from Vnukovo Airport in Moscow on Monday night. The crash killed both the CEO and the flight crew of three French citizens. The driver of the snow vehicle was not injured, however, the Russian Investigative Committee does believe the driver was drunk.

De Margerie was the CEO of Total SA, a French mega-power in the oil sector. Total is the fifth-largest publicly traded international oil company in the world with operations in over 130 countries and a staff of almost 100,000. They serve a whooping 3 million customers a day and refine 1.7 million barrels per day.

The company issued this statement about the death of their chairman:

Total confirms with deep regret and great sadness that Chairman and CEO Christophe de Margerie died just after 10pm (Paris time) on October 20 in a private plane crash at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, following a collision with a snow removal machine.
Four people were found dead at the scene of the accident, including three crew member and Christophe de Margerie.
The thoughts of the management and employees of the Group go out to Christophe de Margerie’s wife, children and loved ones as well as to the families of the three other victims.
The Governance and Ethics Committee will meet with the Board of Directors today to decide how Total will proceed from this point.


france 24 Europe
Russian judge to hear suspects accused in death of Total CEO

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© Fred Dufour, AFP
Text by FRANCE 24
Latest update : 2016-07-14
A Russian court will open a preliminary hearing Friday into the death of Total's former CEO, Christophe de Margerie, who died when his jet crashed into a snow plough at a Moscow airport in 2014. Five airport employees are defendants in the case.

Christophe de Margerie, chief executive of France’s largest listed company, was killed along with three air crew – all of them French citizens – when his jet hit the snow plough as it was taking off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport in the middle of the night.

At a court session on Thursday, lawyers for the five airport employees said the investigation had missed crucial evidence. Prosecutors said they needed more time to respond to the defence claims, and the judge gave them until Friday.

The trial has been postponed several times and Russia’s IAC civil aviation investigative body has yet to release its final report about the crash, which critics say exposed the country’s patchy air safety record.

An inquiry into the crash said in the days after that "criminal negligence" was to blame.

"It was not a terrible tragic series of circumstances ... but criminal negligence by officials" who failed to ensure that airport staff coordinated their duties, said the Investigative Committee, which reports directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Alexander Karabanov, the lawyer for snow plough driver Vladimir Martynenko, said lawyers for the defence had put forward a motion for further investigation in the case.

“At the moment, motions were put forward in court on additional investigation because there were major breaches of laws,” Karabanov told reporters outside Moscow’s Solntsevo District Court on Thursday.

“The prosecutor asked for more time so that he can prepare and give a substantive response,” he said.

The lawyers believe that the investigation had not taken into consideration the actions of the flight crew, including how the pilots should have acted, said Leonid Kurakin, the lawyer for Vnukovo airport’s head of flights, Roman Dunayev.

'Mr Moustache'

In the days after De Margerie's death, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Hollande (also published by the Kremlin) in which he said he was "shocked by the news" and asking Hollande to "pass on the most sincere condolences and words of sympathy" to De Margerie's family and loved ones.

Putin also praised the Total CEO as a "true friend of our country".

De Margerie, who was 63 and known affectionately as “Mr Moustache” for his bushy facial hair, rose through the ranks at Total to become CEO in 2007, and added the post of chairman in 2010.

De Margerie joined Total after graduating from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in 1974, according to the company’s website. He served in several positions in the Finance Department and Exploration & Production division before becoming president of Total Middle East in 1995.

He became a member of Total’s policy-making executive committee in 1999.

Married with three children, he was the son of diplomats and business leaders and the grandson of Pierre Taittinger, founder of Taittinger champagne and the luxury goods dynasty.

He was known for his good humour, but De Margerie had also steered Total through tough times – including defending the company against allegations of corruption during the UN "oil-for-food" programme in Iraq.

Highly regarded within the oil industry, De Margerie admitted the allegations had taken their toll on the company.

"Most people, when they speak of Total, do not know what it is, but know it is not good," he said in 2009.

Paris-based Total is the fifth-largest publicly traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world, with exploration and production operations in more than 50 countries, according to a profile on the company’s website.

Total said in September 2014 that work on constructing a new natural gas liquefaction plant in Yamal in northwestern Siberia was continuing despite EU and US sanctions on Russia over its role in the conflict in Ukraine. Total is developing the plant with Novatek of Russia and Chinese oil group CNPC.

Total announced in May of that year that it had signed a deal with Russia's second-biggest oil firm Lukoil to explore and develop shale oil deposits in western Siberia. But De Margerie later told the Financial Times that the project had been halted due to the Western sanctions.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)

Date created : 2016-07-14

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'Criminal negligence' behind crash that killed Total CEO
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Putin mourns ‘true friend of Russia’ after death of Total boss
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CEO of French oil giant Total killed in Russian plane crash
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Putin mourns ‘true friend of Russia’ after death of Total boss


© AFP | Christophe De Margerie shakes hands with Russia's Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, in 2011.
Text by FRANCE 24
Latest update : 2014-10-21
Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first to react on Tuesday to the death of Total CEO Christophe de Margerie, whom he described as “a true friend of our country”.

De Margerie's jet crashed into a snow plough at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on Monday, killing all four people on board.

In a telegram sent to French President François Hollande, and published on the Kremlin’s website, Putin said he was "shocked by the news".

Putin asked his French counterpart to "pass on the most sincere condolences and words of sympathy" to De Margerie's family and loved ones.

He praised the 63-year-old oil boss as "an outstanding French entrepreneur who originated many major joint projects that formed the basis of many years of fruitful cooperation between Russia and France in the energy sector."

"In Christophe de Margerie, we lost a real friend of our country, whom we will remember with the greatest warmth," Putin said.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told Russian news agencies that the president had known the French oil boss for a long time and "highly esteemed De Margerie's business qualities and his consistent devotion to developing not only bilateral Russia-French relations, but also mutually rewarding multi-faceted cooperation as a whole."

De Margerie, who joined the French oil giant in 1974, has been credited with significantly expanding the company’s operations in Russia, which accounted for about nine percent of Total's oil and gas output in 2013.

The late Total CEO was an outspoken critic of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

In July, he told Reuters news agency that Europe should stop thinking about cutting its dependence on Russian gas and focus instead on making those deliveries safer.

Total said last month that sanctions would not halt its involvement in the so-called Yamal project, a $27 billion joint venture investment to tap vast natural gas reserves in northwest Siberia.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-10-21


CEO of French oil giant Total killed in Russian plane crash
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Video: UK shale gas towns await French oil giant Total
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RUSSIA | Thu Jul 28, 2016 | 11:31am EDT
Moscow airport workers plead guilty to causing Total CEO's death
Five suspects, including (L-R, 1st row) employees of Vnukovo airport Vladimir Ledenev, Vladimir Martynenko, (L-R, 2nd row) Roman Dunayev, Aleksandr Kruglov and Nadezhda Arkhipova (L, 3rd row) attend a hearing on the accident, which resulted in the death of Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of Total company, at the Solntsevo District Court on the suburbs of Moscow, Russia, July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
Two Moscow airport workers admitted responsibility on Thursday for the death of Christophe de Margerie, the CEO of Total and a staunch defender of Russia's energy policies, whose plane collided with a snow plow as it was trying to take off.

The snow plow driver, Vladimir Martynenko, and duty engineer Vladimir Ledenev - two of five suspects in the case - both pleaded guilty to causing Margerie's death in October 2014.

That will make it difficult for the court to rule that anything other than a breach of airport safety systems led to Margerie's death.

His family has not publicly commented on the case.

The French energy group's chief executive, who died along with three air crew, oversaw multi-billion-dollar Total investments in Russia and was killed just as the conflict in Ukraine raise tensions with the West to levels not seen since the Cold War, triggering economic sanctions against Moscow.

Martynenko admitted in court that he had driven his snow plow onto the runway, colliding with Margerie's jet. Ledenev, who was in charge of the team of airport workers on the night of the crash, pleaded guilty to failing to prevent the accident.


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The three others charged in the case, all air traffic controllers, pleaded innocent.

All five suspects were released from jail last year after about 11 months inside.

(Reporting by Gennady Novik; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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