The high court in London has cleared Soma Oil and Gas of corruption allegations brought forward by the serious fraud office over monies paid by the company to Somali officials as salaries for technical staff, office equipment and transport which the company explained as payment for capacity building purposes.
In its ruling the court observed that there was “insufficient evidence of criminality… in relation to the ‘capacity building payments’ that would lead to a conviction.
Responding to the ruling CEO of Soma Richard Anderson termed the past and ongoing investigations as a play by third parties who want to undermine competitive efforts by the company to become the first mover in the horn of Africa country.
“It is all too easy for third parties to make assumptions and allegations about commercial successes in difficult environments around the world but the fact of the matter is that Soma has behaved properly at all times,” said Anderson.
This said the SFO said it is ongoing with other investigations on the company on which the court refused to provide a ruling that would force the state agency to reveal its inquiries on Soma.
“The SFO has confirmed to the Court that it has found no evidence of wrongdoing during its investigation into the allegations set out in the SEMG’s report and we are confident that any outstanding lines of inquiry will not result in any action against Soma, Anderson added.
Soma Oil now says it will now concentrate on converting its Notice of Application into Production Sharing Agreements that will enable the company to take the next steps to confirm if there is a working petroleum system offshore Somalia.
“We respect the role of the SFO and recognise that, when concluded, the investigation will be a net positive for the Company,” read a statement from the company.
Soma Oil & Gas which was founded in early 2013 expressly with a view to exploring in Somalia has on its board members including: former leader of the Conservative Party in Britain Lord Howard now the Chairman having held the post since May 2013, former Chairman of Eurasia Drilling Company Lord Clanwilliam, one of the founding investors in Ophir Energy plc Basil Shiblaq who is the Executive Deputy Chairman among others.
Soma Oil and Gas that in June concluded a 122,000 sq km 2D seismic acquisition and processing is set to benefit from blocks with an area of up to 60,000 sq km under a seismic option agreement with Federal Government of Somalia.