LIMA, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Discover Petroleum, the small Norwegian company whose advisers are at the center of an energy corruption scandal in Peru, said on Tuesday it did not pay bribes to win oil concessions.
The scandal has forced out Mines and Energy Minister Juan Valdivia, along with two other high-ranking energy officials in Peru, which has a growing petroleum industry.
Alberto Quimper, a board member of the state energy agency Perupetro, which organizes auctions of exploration lots, and Cesar Gutierrez, president of state oil and gas company Petroperu, were fired.
“The application process (was) completely open and transparent, and could not possibly have been influenced by any bribes,” Discover said.
Late on Sunday, an audio tape surfaced on an investigative television news show that included a conversation between Quimper and Romulo Leon, a prominent member of President Alan Garcia’s APRA party, in which they apparently agreed to favor Discover in a round of energy auctions.
The company said it had made direct payments to Leon and indirect payments to Quimper, who was subcontracted by Discover’s law firm to provide tax advice.
Between May and October, Discover reported paying $63,750 to Leon, and $60,000 to the law firm that hired Quimper.
“The fact that these individuals were being monitored under the suspicion of corruption already before we had any business interests in Peru, indicates that we are the ones that have been deceived,” the company said.
Discover, which partnered with Petroperu, was awarded five blocs for energy exploration last month. Including those lots, Peru’s government has granted 17 blocks for oil and gas exploration so far this year.
Peru’s justice ministry has said it would investigate the banking records of the Peruvian executives, and suspend the contracts awarded to Discover. (Reporting by Dana Ford, editing by Matthew Lewis)