LA PAZ (AP) – A Bolivian judge on Monday upheld arrest warrants for two executives of the Spanish-Argentine energy company Repsol YPF who failed to appear to testify in an oil smuggling investigation.
The Bolivian customs agency has alleged that the Repsol subsidiary Andina S.A. illegally exported more than U.S.$9.2 million (euro 7.9 million) of oil – or 230,000 barrels – to Argentina and Chile between 2004 and 2005.
Attorneys for the two Repsol executives, local president Julio Gavito and operations manager Pedro Sánchez, asked a Bolivian judge to lift the warrants issued last week, insisting the case be handled as an administrative rather than criminal matter.
Repsol issued a statement saying it had not committed a crime and called the legal actions “unjustifiable’’ and “unmeasured.’’ The district attorney’s office in the province of Santa Cruz, accompanied by police in riot gear, raided the Repsol offices last week in search of Gavito and Sánchez. Repsol attorney Abel Montano has said the pair remain in Bolivia.
The district attorney said that information obtained in the raid led it to investigate Repsol for another alleged contraband case – involving gas bottling equipment worth roughly US$8 million (euro6.71 million) – and is now seeking testimony from two other local Repsol executives.
Repsol has denied involvement in the matter, saying that a contractor managed the equipment.
Last week, Spain’s foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, said the actions against Repsol were sending bad signals to foreign investors in Bolivia.
Bolivian President Evo Morales responded this weekend saying it’s not a “bad signal to follow the law.’’ Morales’ new government is in the early stages of renegotiating contracts with foreign energy companies operating in Bolivia, including Repsol.