The Argentine government on Tuesday sued several energy and support companies that are drilling for oil near the Falkland Islands, the latest chapter of a longstanding dispute over the South Atlantic archipelago, though analysts say it will have little practical effect. The criminal case was filed in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego province which according to the Argentine constitution includes the Falklands and Antarctica.
Argentina is suing British companies Rockhopper Exploration, Premier Oil and Falkland Oil and Gas, along with American company Noble Energy and Edison International SpA from Italy. It's also suing several others that have collaborated and provided logistical support to the larger companies: Petroleum Geo-Services, Desire Petroleum, Neptune EHF y Ocean Rig.
Argentina will defend its natural resources, said Filmus, arguing that the companies are performing illegal acts by drilling near the Islands, which the Argentine government claims.
A statement from Houston by US Premier Oil said our concession contracts are with the Falkland Islands Government.
When Argentine officials announced their plans last week in London, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond sharply criticized the move.
It's an outrageous piece of bullying and threatening against the Falkland Islanders' perfect right to develop their economic resources, and Argentina need to stop this kind of behavior and start acting like a responsible member of the international community, Hammond said in an interview with Sky News.
The suits say that exploration for hydrocarbons was being done without permission of the Argentine Secretary of Energy. If found guilty, the heads of the companies and other employees could be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.
Even if the suits are successful, it's unlikely that any decision would go beyond the borders of Argentina.
Juan Javier Negri, an Argentine lawyer specializing in commercial international law, said the government would have serious difficulties carrying out any sentence because it was unlikely international bodies would implement it.
In that sense, the suits represent more of a political gesture in the midst of escalating political rhetoric than an action with concrete effects said political analyst Rosendo Fraga.
The Falklands dispute always strikes a nerve in Argentina, but Britain has repeatedly said the question of sovereignty and future, depends on the decision from the Islanders based on their right to self determination. In a 2013 referendum, the vast majority of Falkland Islands residents voted to remain a British territory. The Islands have a population of almost 3.000 people, according to a 2012 census.
Several U.N. resolutions have urged the two nations to negotiate. Argentina claims Britain usurped the territory by placing a naval garrison there in 1833.
The latest clash began last month, when Britain announced plans to update its military capacities protecting the Islands over the next decade arguing Argentina represents a live threat to Islanders. The Falklands elected government later announced that the first well of the current drilling campaign, Zebedee was an oil and gas discovery.
Since then, the Argentine government has repeatedly criticized Britain on defense spending and oil drilling.
During an April 3 speech, while claiming Argentina's right to the Falklands/Malvinas, President Cristina Fernandez said Great Britain should not spend even one more British pound protecting the Islands and instead should use the money for its poor.