Falklands power grab: Argentina risks fury as it turns screw by targeting UK oil companies

Falklands power grab: Argentina risks fury as it turns screw by targeting UK oil companies

ARGENTINA is turning the screw on the Falkland Islands with controversial legislation which penalises companies which participate in oil exploration projects while using licences issued by the Government of the remote British Overseas Territory.

The rules - which the South American country is using to target UK companies including Premier Oil - are worsening an already difficult situation as a result of the ongoing economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic. The election last year of Peronist President Alberto Fernandez has triggered a sovereignty push by Buenos Aires, spearheaded by Daniel Filmus, Argentina's Secretary of Malvinas, Antarctica and South Atlantic.

The regime is armed with legislation passed in 2013 which enables it to target companies which undertake in oil exploration scheme related to what Argentina calls the Malvinas.

In June, 2015, a Federal Judge in Tierra del Fuego, Lilian Herraez, ordered the seizure of goods and assets worth £118.6million ($156.4million), belonging to Falkland Oil and Gas Limited, Premier Oil Plc, Rockhopper Exploration Plc and Noble Energy Inc.

Speaking days prior to the complaint was lodged by Prosecutors of Rio Grande and the Head of Financial Crime and Money on April 17, 2015, Mr Filmus said: "Argentina has been forced to resort to defensive measures making use of the law and political action as its main tools in order to protect the natural resources in the area under dispute.

"The existence of large-scale renewable and non-renewable natural resources in the area can produce an obstacle to dialogue by triggering growing tensions, or it could also be an incentive to return to the negotiating table.

"It is not only economic development that is at stake but also the conservation of the rich and fragile ecosystems of the zone."

Then-Chancellor Philip Hammond hit back angrily, saying: "It is an outrageous piece of bullying and threatening against the Falkland islanders’ perfect right to develop their own economic resources and Argentina needs to stop this kind of behaviour and start acting like a responsible member of the international community."

Geologists believe there may be as much as 60 billion barrels of oil under the sea bed surrounding the remote archipelago.

In a statement issued in October of last year, the Argentinian Government accused Rockhopper, Premier Oil, and Argos Resources of undertaking unauthorised oil and gas activities on the continental shelf close to the Falkland Islands.

Argentinian website Tiempo suggested despite hundreds of millions of pounds invested since 2010, no oil had yet been distracted, with the looming recession making the prospect unlikely in the short terms.

Tiempo suggested the legislation wielded by the Argentinian Government made the situation even more difficult.

A statement carried on Premier Oil's website on July 15 said: "Premier expects to write off $200 million of exploration expenditure relating to its acreage in the North Falklands basin which will not be developed as part of its Sea Lion Phase 1 project."

Last month two bills sent to the legislature by Mr Fernandez relating to the Falklands were ratified by the country's Senate.

The first bill creates a body entitled the National Council of Affairs Relating to the Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces.

The second, significantly, aimed to establish definitive outer limits of the continental shelf, beyond 200 miles.

In effect, it reaffirmed Argentina's presumed rights over the use of the seabed and subsoil of the continental shelf and its natural resources - minerals, hydrocarbons and animal species - and are likely a precursor to oil exploration projects in the region.

Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this month, Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, Secretary of the Falkland Islands All Party Parliamentary Group, said irrespective of the new legislation, Argentina would be "forever disappointed" in its quest to gain sovereignty over the Falklands.

Romford MP Mr Rosindell told Express.co.uk: "It would be sad for Argentina if they cannot move on.

"It's sad for them and their people that they simply can't move on from this issue because they will forever be disappointed.

"There is no resolution to this issue in the way that they want to see it resolved.

"The people of the Falkland Islands must determine their own future and they have done that in a referendum.

"They have made it clear for a long time now that they want to stay British, they do not want to fall under the sovereignty of Argentina and they are never going to change their minds and that's obvious."

www.prensa.cancilleria.gob.ar es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino