articles | 22 September 2016

ExxonMobil interest in Cyprus first shown in 2000

U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil may have shown interest in engaging in oil exploration in Cyprus as far back as January 2000, long before Cyprus had agreed with Egypt the boundaries of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ), it emerged recently.

A new set of leaked data, dubbed the ‘Bahama Leaks’, posted on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, included three ExxonMobil companies whose names appeared to be linked to hydrocarbon exploration in Cyprus.

The three companies, all registered in Bahamas, are ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Cyprus Ltd incorporated on January 25, 2000, ExxonMobil Exploration Cyprus Ltd, set up on March 19, 2012 and ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Cyprus (Offshore) Ltd established on March 9 2016, less than four weeks after the government announced its intention to go ahead with a third oil and gas licensing round.

The government went ahead with the third exploration round after President Nicos Anastasiades had meetings with representatives of energy companies at the World Economic Forum in Davos in February, five months after Egypt announced a 30 trillion cubic feet natural gas discovery in its EEZ. ExxonMobil was one of the companies which submitted an expression of interest, in association with Qatar Petroleum, for block 10 in Cyprus’ EEZ. The successful bidders are expected to be announced by early next year.

The ExxonMobil exploration company, set up in March 2012, did not participate in the second oil and gas licensing round that was announced a few months after Cyprusmade its only gas discovery – in the Aphrodite field containing 4.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Cyprus, which signed with Egypt the first EEZ delimitation agreement in February 2003, before doing so with Lebanon and Israel in 2007 and 2010 respectively, held its first licencing round in 2007.

The ICIJ database includes 500,000 offshore entities including the Panama Papers and the Offshore Leaks. According to the ICIJ, while politicians, celebrities, businesspeople, companies and criminals have set up offshore companies to launder money or evade taxes, an inclusion in the database was no proof of illegal activities as the use of offshore companies was a legitimate practice.

Source: Cyprus Mail

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