Switzerland Launches Criminal Investigation into Addax Petroleum Operations in Nigeria

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A criminal investigation has been launched by the Geneva Prosecutor’s Office into the operations of the Geneva-based Addax Petroleum Limited in Nigeria.

The Chief Executive Officer of Addax Petroleum Geneva Office, Zhang Yi, and the Legal Director were also reportedly arrested in connection with the criminal investigation.

Confirming the launch of the criminal investigation, the company said saturday in an emailed statement to THISDAY that it was taking the matter seriously and would be responding appropriately to the investigation.

The company’s official response, which was silent on the allegation that its CEO had been arrested, however admitted that the criminal investigation was in respect of the company’s operation in Nigeria.

“Addax Petroleum confirms that a criminal investigation is being conducted by the Geneva Prosecutor’s Office in relation to allegations focusing primarily on the Company’s business in Nigeria. Addax Petroleum is taking this matter very seriously and will be responding appropriately to the investigation,” said the statement.

“As this matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further at present,” the statement added.

However, Reuters reported that the chief executive officer and legal director of Addax Petroleum, Geneva, had both been arrested in Geneva and charged with suspected bribery of foreign officials.

The spokesman for Canton’s Prosecutor, Henri della Casa, had told Reuters that a criminal procedure had also been opened against the company — bought by China’s state-owned Sinopec, Asia’s largest oil refiner in 2009.

“I can confirm that the Geneva prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into bribery of foreign officials and that the company, Addax and its director-general and legal director are the subject of it,’’ della Casa said.

A Swiss daily, Le Temps quoted a Geneva lawyer, Saverio Lembo as saying: “My client vigorously contests the charges against him. He plans to defend himself. For the rest, we will not comment on the procedure under way.”

There was no response from the company’s press office to an emailed inquiry and phone calls.

A lawyer for Addax confirmed to Reuters reporters in Le Temps that the investigation was linked to activity in Nigeria, but would not comment further.

Addax Petroleum, which is one of the international oil companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria, is a subsidiary of the Sinopec Group, one of the largest oil and gas producers in China, the biggest oil refiner in Asia and the third largest worldwide.

The company was formerly a Canadian firm until 2009 when Sinopec Group launched China’s biggest-ever foreign oil acquisition where it bought  Addax Petroleum Corporation for about C$8.27 billion (Canadian dollar or about $7.24 billion US dollar) to secure the company’s high-potential oil blocks in West Africa and Iraq.

Addax, which is listed in London and Toronto Stock Exchanges, is an international oil and gas, exploration and production company that is focused on Africa, Middle East and North Sea

The company operates primarily Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as opposed to the joint venture arrangement between the corporation and other IOCs.

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