(First published in Norwegian 6 October 2008)
By Erik Hagen
All the big online Peruvian newspapers wrote about the Norwegian case on Monday 6th of October, after the case exploded in Peru on Sunday.
It all started with an exposure on the programme “Cuarta poder” on the TV station América TV. There it was revealed that representatives from the Norwegian company Discover Petroleum International are supposed to have paid money under the table to one of the directors in Peru’s petroleum directorate, PeruPetro, as well as to the chairman of the board of the state petroleum company. Among other things the TV programme contained four hidden recordings that are supposed to prove the circumstances.
Since then things have not stopped.
President Alan García, together with the prime minister and the minister of energy, announced at a press conference at the government palace on Sunday that one of the directors of PeruPetro, Alberto Quimper Herrera, had to be fired.
In addition, the government accepted the resignation of the chairman of the board of the state petroleum company, César Gutierrez, who resigned as a result of the revelations.
According to the programme, the money was supposed to have been given in connection with the small Norwegian petroleum company having been awarded five offshore contracts and one contract in an untouched Peruvian rain forest in September. Norwatch wrote about the environmentally controversial case last week.
Sunday’s press conference concluded with the prime minister terminating the Norwegian involvement in Peru. He said that he assumed that the petroleum authorities in the country “would break off the signing of any contract with the Norwegian company”. So far the company has received an offer of many blocks, which they had accepted. All that remained was the final signing by the parties. He also requested that the country’s auditor general take the necessary measures.
“We consider it extremely serious that an official employee (PeruPetro director Alberto Quimper [ed.note]) betrays the confidence of his government and his country and mingles with lobbyists who are lavish with money”, Peru’s president said.
He furthermore called the persons involved “rats” and requested that they be arrested for presumed corruption. Watch the video of the press conference on TV Peru here.
“This concerns recordings that prove that they received fees of US$ 100,000 or 200,000 to distribute the blocks, which legally should have been distributed by means of tenders”, according to former Minister of Internal Affairs Rospigliosi.
The petroleum directorate’s director, Quimper, and Discover’s representative (ex-parliamentarian
Rómulo León Alegría are also believed to have made good money on this deal. Even though Discover Petroleum entered into the petroleum contracts with Peruvian authorities in collaboration with Peru’s state petroleum company PetroPeru, it is only the Norwegian company and the government employees in the directorate who have been criticised in the media.
“We consider this a very serious matter”, Jan Wennesland, chairman of the board of Discover Petroleum, told Norwatch.
When Norwatch called him on Monday, he was on the way to Stavanger to discuss what should now be done with the case.
“We have only received a short notice from Peru so far. This is a case we must discuss thoroughly”, Wennesland said.
Indigenous Population in the Block
In connection with discussion of the case last week, Norwatch spoke with Wennesland as to whether there were local societies of Indians in the petroleum block. This he knew nothing about.
On Monday Norwatch received confirmation from the Peruvian human rights lawyer Lily la Torre that there actually are Indians living within the block area that the Norwegians were awarded but which they now have lost the rights to.
La Torre worked with rights questions for the indigenous populations in the Madre de Dios region from 1996 to 2004. She mentioned, among others, the Indian societies Tres Islas and Puerto Arturo.