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An Oro Negro drilling rig. An Oro Negro drilling rig.

Driller accuses government of collusion with Pemex over contract corruption

Oro Negro says Attorney General's probe is in retaliation for not paying bribes

A Mexican oilfield services company has accused the federal government of using the Attorney General’s office (PGR) to intimidate and destroy it through a criminal investigation.

In an open letter published in The New York Times, Oro Negro charged that an embezzlement probe against it was launched in retaliation for refusing to pay bribes to the state oil company Pemex in order to obtain contracts.

The company said the accusation that it embezzled funds it received from private investors which it should have used to pay bondholders — as charged by the PGR — is “frivolous, lacks foundation and is a manifestation of the permanent campaign [of the government of] Mexico to harass, persecute and destroy Oro Negro.”

The company claimed that Pemex conspired with bondholders to cancel its contracts for oil platforms it operated so that the latter could take over the rigs and negotiate their own agreements with the state-owned company.

Signed by a lawyer for the company and American and European shareholders, the letter also said that Oro Negro has recordings of high-ranking former Pemex officials in which they admit that their company was seeking to destroy Oro Negro because it refused to pay bribes.

In turn, Pemex said in a statement yesterday that Oro Negro’s claims are unfounded and that any recordings should be submitted to authorities so that their authenticity can be assessed.

It also questioned why the information hadn’t been made public earlier.

Pemex refuted Oro Negro’s claim that it had been “destroyed” because it had been locked out of the oil exploration market for refusing to pay bribes.

“The facts refute that version [of events] because in 2016 and 2017 Pemex offered the same terms to Oro Negro as it did to many other suppliers of oil platforms,” the statement said.

“. . . The other companies accepted the terms set by Pemex while Oro Negro decided not to . . . Pemex denies any discrimination against Oro Negro.”

The statement also said that “Pemex will continue to defend itself from the unfounded claims against it and against the Mexican government . . . because in good faith and within its legal rights, it sought to renegotiate its contracts with Oro Negro . . . after the slowing down of the petroleum market.”

Oro Negro, the state oil company said, “took the unilateral decision to reject Pemex’s terms and decided to initiate the process to declare itself bankrupt.”

In addition, it said that “Pemex is of the firm belief that Oro Negro is deploying a strategy in international media to compensate for a series of strategic errors that said company has committed and because of the deficiencies in its legal case against Pemex.”

Oro Negro initiated legal action against Pemex last month for the unfair and unlawful treatment it alleges it received and, according to the public letter, United States shareholders are seeking at least US $700 million in damages while European shareholders are claiming US $300 million in compensation.

“Mexico frequently shows no respect for the rule of law and uses all its organs, including agencies responsible for enforcing the law, at its discretion and to destroy those who refuse to participate in corruption,” the letter charged.

The state oil company said it will defend itself in Mexican and international courts “with full confidence that the result of the legal process will be favorable to it.”

Source: Animal Político (sp), Milenio (sp), El Economista (sp), Forbes (sp)

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