Repsol executives arrested for smuggling petrol
15 March 2006, LA PAZ, BOLIVIA — Bolivian police arrested the two top executives of Spanish oil company Repsol YPF in the Andean nation on smuggling charges.
15 March 2006
LA PAZ, BOLIVIA — Bolivian police arrested the two top executives of Spanish oil company Repsol YPF in the Andean nation on smuggling charges.
The arrests came after the two men, a Spaniard and an Argentine who had been in hiding since late last week, appeared voluntarily to be questioned by prosecutors.
Repsol YPF spokesmen said the executives were being held at a police office in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, pending a hearing to determine if they will be released on bail.
Julio Gavito, a Spanish citizen who heads Repsol YPF Bolivian unit Andina, and Argentine Pedro Sanchez, the company's director of operations, made an unexpected appearance on Tuesday at the Customs Service headquarters, where they testified for six hours.
Gavito and Sanchez had been in hiding since last Thursday, when the prosecutors in the case, Angel Alvarez, Abel Cornejo and Jose Centenaro, went to the Repsol YPF offices in Santa Cruz with about 20 police officers to arrest them and get a statement.
Bolivian authorities wanted to question Gavito and Sanchez in connection with allegations that Andina smuggled EUR 7.62 million worth of crude oil out of the Andean nation between June 2004 and July 2005 without securing the necessary authorization or paying applicable taxes and duties.
Andina and Repsol have denied any wrongdoing.
In early February, Andina presented its formal response to accusations by Bolivia's Customs Service that the firm used both pipelines and tanker trucks to smuggle fuel to Chile and Argentina.
Bolivian Customs Service officials also charged Andina with falsifying export documents.
As he was escorted to a police car, Gavito repeated that no violations were committed.
The oil company executive said last month that his firm would do "everything humanly possible" to stay in Bolivia, where Repsol YPF holds the fifth-largest share of an estimated 48 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.
The gas that is impoverished Bolivia's main natural resource is currently extracted by foreign firms.
Besides Repsol, the top operators are Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras, Britain's BG Group and BP, French major Total and U.S.-based ExxonMobil.
President Evo Morales, a Socialist inaugurated in January, has vowed to nationalize Bolivia's energy industry, saying foreign companies have made windfall profits exploiting vast reserves of natural gas and smaller ones of oil.
He has promised, though, that the nationalization would not be confiscatory or coerced.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news