Bolivia Seeks to Arrest Repsol Official, Raids Offices

Bolivian police raided the offices of a Repsol-YPF subsidiary yesterday to get information on alleged oil smuggling operations, Repsol officials said.

Shortly after Repsol announced that a Santa Cruz court had suspended a local investigation into the Spanish oil firm's alleged smuggling of 230,400 barrels of oil, police broke into subsidiary Andina's offices, which a spokesman termed "illegal."

Repsol controls 26 percent of Bolivia's gas reserves, which are the second largest in South America behind Venezuela's (Agence France-Presse, March 9).

Santa Cruz police also issued a warrant yesterday for the arrest of regional Repsol President Julio Gavito, who failed to appear in court to face charges of illegally exporting oil to Argentina and Chile between 2004 and 2005.

Last week, Repsol President Antonio Brufau said the company had not committed a crime but would be willing to pay a fine if it turned out they had made an administrative error (Fiona Smith, AP/Houston Chronicle, March 9).

Repsol slashed its estimated proven reserves January by 25 percent and reduced production estimates 20 percent for the 2005-09 period, citing in part political changes in Bolivia. It attributed the cut -- equivalent to 1.25 billion barrels of oil -- to concerns about changes to Bolivian legislation stemming from President Evo Morales's promise to increase state control (E&ENews PM, Feb. 27).

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