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Peru sues Spain’s Repsol for USD4.5B over oil spill

LIMA (AFP) – Peru has filed suit against Spanish energy company Repsol over the massive January oil spill that ravaged its coast, seeking USD4.5 billion in damages.

The lawsuit was filed before the 27th civil court in Lima against six companies: Repsol (Spain), Mapfre Global Risks (Spain), Mapfre Peru Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (Peru), La Pampilla Refinery (Peru), Transtotal Maritime Agency (Peru) and Fratelli d’amico Armatori (Italy, owner of the tanker involved), Peru’s consumer protection agency said.

“These suits could create pre-cedents for oil spills that cause damage and collective non-material damages due to environmental pollution of coastal areas,” said executive director of the Nat-ional Institute for the Defence of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI), Julian Palacin, in a statement released late Friday.

INDECOPI has sought USD3 billion for environmental damage to Peru’s coast, and another USD1.5 billion as compensation to consumers, locals and others affected by the disaster, the suit said.

Repsol in a statement on Saturday rejected the suit as baseless. “(INDECOPI’s) estimates are lacking the bare minimum needed to support the indicated figures,” the Spanish oil company said, regarding the USD4.5 billion sought by Peru.

The spill occurred on January 15 while the Italian-flagged tanker ‘Mare Doricum’ was unloading crude oil at the Repsol-owned La Pampilla refinery in Ventanilla, 30 kilometres north of Lima. The oil company attributed the incident to waves caused by a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Tonga, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, and the Peruvian government described it as an “ecological disaster.”

The oil spill affected more than 700,000 residents, mostly fishermen, and forced the closure of 20 beaches and dozens of businesses in the area.

A man walks past the headquarters of Spanish oil company Repsol in Madrid. PHOTO: AFP