San Francisco: Argentina made good on previous threats when it started legal proceedings in an Argentine court against three British oil exploration companies on Friday.
The Argentines’ claim is that by carrying out exploration activities in waters around the disputed Falkland Islands the firms – Premier Oil, Falkland Oil and Gas, and Rockhopper – are in violation of the South American nations’ laws because they failed to get the permission of the state.
A judge in Rio Grande, Argentina, has agreed to take on the case. The court could impose heavy fines and as much as 15 years in prison for the oil and gas companies, whose ranks also include two US firms Edison International and Noble Energy.
Britain and the Falklands Islands – a self-governing British Overseas Territory – say Argentina is bullying and has no jurisdiction over the islands or the waters.
Relations between Argentina and Britain have been growing tenser since the announced discovery of oil and gas reserves around the islands a few weeks ago.
Thirty-three years ago the two nations fought a three-month war in the Falklands when Britain sent a huge naval task force to oust invading Argentine soldiers from the islands.