Argentina’s Chubut to investigate BP’s venture oil concession


Argentina’s Chubut to investigate BP’s venture oil concession


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Bloomberg) -- Argentina’s Chubut provincial prosecutor said he will begin a probe of alleged bribes by BP Plc’s Argentine venture Pan American Energy LLC to extend its Cerro dragon oil field concession seven years ago.

Chubut prosecutor Miguel Montoya said earlier today on local radio LU4 that he will file in a provincial court after it became public March 30 that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission initiated a similar probe in 2010. Judith Burns, a spokeswoman for the SEC in Washington, declined to comment when asked if the agency is investigating. Richard Wine, a BP spokesman, declined to comment on the Chubut filing in a telephone interview from London.

“The accusation will be very basic: it will ask a judge to determine whether or not there was a crime,” Montoya said.

Pan American denied any wrongdoing today in full-page advertisements published in Argentine national newspapers. It was notified about an SEC probe in 2010 that sought to determine whether the company paid bribes to extend the Cerro Dragon concession in Chubut province in 2007, the company said.

Chubut Governor Martin Buzzi asked BP to provide the same information as in the SEC case, according to Chubut’s province website.

The Cerro Dragon field generates two-thirds of Pan American’s crude output. Pan American exports 40% of its Cerro Dragon production, according to a company regulatory filing.

Guillermo Baistrocchi, a spokesman for Pan American in Buenos Aires, didn’t reply to a telephone call seeking comment.

Clarin, a Buenos Aires-based newspaper, published a story on March 30 that the SEC was investigating after BP said Pan American Energy may have made illegal payments to Argentine tax and government authorities.

Pan American dollar bonds due 2021 fell 0.06 cents on the dollar to 101.8 cents at 11:14 a.m. in New York, pushing yields up to 7.5%. Argentine benchmark government bonds due 2017 rose 0.04 cents on the dollar to 93.1 cents. The company has $500 million in outstanding bonds.

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