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28 Aug 2006 07:50
A Chad minister denied on Monday that his country’s expulsion of two foreign energy companies at the weekend was aimed at winning greater control of its oil resources.
Chad ordered the Unitd States giant Chevron and Malaysia’s Petronas on Saturday to leave the country for failing to honour tax obligations.
“The solution is to pay their tax,” Mahamat Bechir Okormi, the country’s minister for state control and ethics, told Reuters in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. “We want them to pay the tax.
There’s no other solution.
“It’s not a matter of control,” said the minister, who was in Malaysia to attend a meeting of Islamic nations on anti-corruption.
“The problem was that Petronas and Chevron had to pay tax, then they arranged with a certain individual, a minister, in order to get a tax exemption.
Petronas officials could not immediately be contacted for comment. A company spokesperson said at the weekend it had received no official notification of the move and was seeking information.
Chad’s surprise move followed its decision to create a new national oil company which it said should become a partner in the country’s existing oil-producing consortium, led by Exxon Mobil and including Chevron and Petronas.
Petronas holds 35% of the consortium, Chevron 25%, and Exxon the remaining 40%.
Landlocked Chad, which began pumping crude in 2003, produces around 160 000-170 000 bpd but most of its people remain poor. Industry experts said the government was anxious to carve out a more advantageous position as Chad’s oil production, which began in 2003, expanded.
President Idriss Déby’s government has threatened the country’s oil partners before.
In April it said it would stop oil production completely unless the World Bank unlocked an oil revenue account frozen in a dispute over how it spent its oil profits.
Chad—ranked by a Transparency International survey last year as the world’s most corrupt state—later backed away from the threat and the dispute was resolved. - Reuters
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