Horizon Oil Ltd reports that an investigation has cleared the company of any wrongdoing in its payment to acquire an interest in PNG Petroleum Retention Licence (PRL) -21 in 2011 it has been found to have not breached any bribery laws.
The investigation, which included a forensic review of all aspects of the transaction, was conducted by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and Deloitte with the oversight of an Independent Board Committee (IBC).
Horizon said the review confirmed that no breach of any Australian foreign bribery has been established.
The company added that it is not aware of any breach of any regulatory investigation into these matters in Australia and PNG.
“The 2011 transaction was undertaken to advance Horizon’s legitimate business interests in PNG,” the company told the ASX.
“Horizon confirms that the structure of the transaction and the quantum of the purchase price paid by Horizon was consistent with market practice and comparable to other relevant transactions at the same time.
“In addition, Horizon confirms that no payments were made in excess of the agreed purchase price and Horizon has no knowledge of any subsequent transfers or transactions made by the counterparties after the purchase was paid.”
The company said that given the seriousness of the allegations made in the media, the significant market impact to its shareholders resulting from the articles and that the transaction with Elevala Energy occurred more than eight years ago, the Horizon Board elected to initiate an immediate and in-depth investigation.
The investigation was to examine whether the company’s actions in respect of the 2011 transaction breached Australia’s foreign bribery laws.
HSF instructed Deloitte’s forensic investigation team to identify and collate relevant factual information. The IBC directed HSF and Deloitte to have consideration to all information in the company’s possession in the conduct of the investigation.
“The investigation, conducted by two highly reputable firms, has now concluded. No breach of Australian foreign bribery laws has been established,” Horizon chairman, Mike Harding said.
“We recognise and regret the impact of these allegations. The disclosure and publication of company information without seeking to fully understand the facts around a transaction occurring more than eight years ago has caused significant loss to shareholders and cost the company.
The investigation provides the necessary closure in relation to these allegations and after a challenging few months, we are now focussed on the process of regaining the confidence of our stakeholders, so that we can move forward with confidence and deliver on our corporate growth objectives.”
Horizon holds a 30.15% interest and is operator of PRL-21 which contains the Elevala/Tingu and Ketu gas-condensate fields.
The reserves from the permit are a key component of the company’s proposed 1.5 mtpa Western LNG gas aggregation project.