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Woodside in Mauritania referred to Aust. Police

Woodside's activities referred to Australian Federal Police

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne today confirmed that she had asked the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate Woodside's activities in Mauritania.

"I have asked the AFP, through the Minister for Justice, Senator Chris Ellison, to investigate whether certain activities by Woodside in Mauritania breach Australian law," Senator Milne said in Hobart.

"The activities relate to amendments to oil Production Sharing
Contracts negotiated between Woodside and the former energy minister of Mauritania, and the settlement of a subsequent dispute about those amendments between Woodside and the new government of Mauritania. This includes a US$100 million payment."

The relevant facts which led Senator Milne to seek the investigation appear below.

Woodside negotiated four amendments to its Production Sharing Contracts with the former Minister for energy and petroleum, Zaydane Ould Hmaidah.

Following a military coup in August last year, the former minister was arrested and charged with "crimes against the country's vital economic interests".

The new Head of State pronounced in a speech to the nation that the amendments were illegal and unacceptable. He said that the amendments were signed "outside the legal framework of normal practice, to the great detriment of our country". The Mauritanian government argued that the amendments reduced Mauritania's income from the partnership by up to US$200 million per year, and that they posed serious threats to the country's marine biodiversity.

Woodside argued that the amendments were legal and binding.

The new government threatened to take the dispute to the Paris-based International Tribunal of Chamber of Commerce. Before that process was undertaken, Woodside and the Mauritanian government reached a settlement which included the payment of US$100 million by Woodside to the government, and the cancellation of the four amendments.

The former energy minister was released from custody and granted amnesty.

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