National Lottery licence winner's ties to Russia-backed Gazprom exposed in PMQs
Karel Komarek, the owner of Allwyn, has joint ventures with Russian energy giant Gazprom
Concerns over National Lottery licence winner Karel Komarek were raised today in the House of Commons over his ties to Russian state-backed energy giant Gazprom.
The Czech billionaire’s company Allwyn has been awarded a 10-year license by the Gambling Commission to run the National Lottery after Camelot’s licence expires.
Tory MP Dean Russell raised concerns to the Government during PMQs that Mr Komarek’s company MND (Moravske Naftove Doly) has ongoing joint ventures with Gazprom.
After emphasising the importance the Lottery plays in his Watford constituency and that Camelot is one of its biggest employers, the MP for Watford questioned whether Allwyn was an appropriate choice in light of the Ukraine crisis.
Mr Russell said: “I obviously declare an interest in the Gambling Commission’s decision yesterday, not to appoint the licence to Camelot.
“I do wonder, given the current situation in Ukraine, if my right honourable friend considered it appropriate that the next licensee of the Lottery is known to have a joint venture with Gazprom.”
Responding, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab reassured MPs that Mr Komarek “is in discussions with the Czech Republic regarding its joint venture with Gazprom and is removing its involvement".
Mr Raab added that the gambling tycoon has “long-criticised the Putin regime”.
Mr Komarek, whose estimated net worth is £5.9billion, condemned Russia’s "senseless act of aggression" towards Ukraine in an open letter at the start of this month.
The gambling tycoon said: "It is a senseless act of aggression that must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and we are doing all we can to support the brave Ukrainians impacted by the barbarism of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“There are very few options to fully divest from Russian gas in Eastern Europe. What we want to do is free ourselves from Russian involvement without putting ordinary Czech citizens at risk, in the middle of winter.
"I took the decision many years ago to divest and exit from Russian assets with the exception of a shareholding in a gas terminal which we have been trying to exit for a number of years and a 50/50 joint-venture with Gazprom on an underground gas storage facility in the Czech Republic."
As part of its bid to win the license, Allwyn pledged to donate £38billion to good causes over the next decade, almost equivalent to the £45billion Camelot raised since it began running the national lottery in 1994.
Mr Komarek also vowed to focus on the National Lottery's digital investment spree as part of a plan to dramatically reduce the use of player's paper tickets.
Another proposal from the billionaire was to reduce ticket prices from £2 to £1 and having two draws on one night.