Horizon Oil’s share price has plummeted as the Australian Federal Police assess claims the company bribed PNG officials.
The claims stem from an article in the Australian Financial Review about a payment of $15.4 million Horizon made to an unknown shell company after securing a development licence from then minister for commerce and industry William Duma. Horizon said it had “no actual knowledge of any wrongdoing relating to that transaction” in a statement to the ASX on Tuesday, but has since begun an internal investigation.
“Given the seriousness of the allegations made in the article and that the relevant transaction occurred some 9 years ago, Horizon Oil’s board has today initiated an independent investigation into this matter,” the company said in another statement.
But the company may soon find itself facing down an Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation as well.
“The AFP can confirm it has received a quantity of material containing information relating to this allegation from an anonymous sender,” an AFP spokesperson told Investor Daily.
“The information is being assessed at the current time. The AFP takes all allegations of foreign bribery offences by Australian entities and citizens seriously, and is committed to combatting this insidious crime type.”
Horizon says that it isn’t aware of any active investigation by the AFP or ASIC. The company’s share price has dropped more than 30 per cent since the news broke on Monday.
It’s not the first time a company has gotten into strife over PNG’s oil. Swiss bank UBS inked a deal with the country’s government to underwrite its purchase of shares in exploration and development company Oil Search – just in time for the price of crude to tank, costing the government $420 million dollars.
That deal is now the subject of a royal commission.
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