Argentina Launches Lawsuit Against Falkland Oil Drillers

Argentina Launches Lawsuit Against Falkland Oil DrillersArgentina Launches Lawsuit Against Falkland Oil Drillers

Argentina announced on Friday it had started legal proceedings in one of its own courts against five companies, including three British, who are drilling for oil and gas off the Falkland Islands, a move Britain denounced as bullying.

“All exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons on the Argentine continental shelf without Argentine authorization is illegal,” Argentina’s government minister responsible for the islands, Daniel Filmus, told Reuters. He said a judge in Rio Grande, Argentina, would take on the case.

British foreign minister Philip Hammond told Sky News television that Argentina “needs to stop this kind of behavior and start acting like a responsible member of the international community.”

The companies targeted in the case are Premier Oil, Falkland Oil and Gas and Rockhopper, listed in Britain, Italy’s Edison and Noble Energy which is listed in the United States. The British and Italian firms declined to comment.

Noble Energy said their concessions were off the Falklands Islands, and that their concession contracts were with the Falklands Islands Government. Argentina says it is the rightful owner of the islands, which it calls Las Malvinas, a claim dating back centuries to the Spanish colonial era. The dispute has escalated in recent years with the discovery of oil and gas deposits.

Filmus said the Argentine court could impose prison terms of as much as 15 years and steep fines against executives of the firms if they were found to have illegally extracted oil and gas.