Origin’s Beetaloo cleared over ties with Russian oligarch

Aerial shot of gas exploration equipment in the Beetaloo Basin (safeguard mechanism)
Gas exploration equipment in the Beetaloo Basin

Origin Energy’s gas project in the Beetaloo Basin has been cleared of any breach of sanctions against Russia, Reuters reported.

Origin sought advice after Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, who is linked to Origin through business ties, was added to the list of oligarchs barred under sanctions against Russia.

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The Australian Sanctions Office found Origin’s exploration activities in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin did not breach Australian sanctions laws.

Since no gas is being produced and no revenue generated, the Australian Sanctions Office determined Vekselberg’s share in Beetaloo had no direct or indirect benefit to him.

Vekselberg is a beneficiary of a foundation that holds 100 per cent of the shares in Lamesa Holdings, a minority shareholder of Falcon Oil and Gas Limited, which is the parent company of Origin’s junior partner in the Beetaloo Basin gas project.

Origin, the majority shareholder of the Beetaloo Basin joint venture, will now focus on completing the exploration program commitments by drilling and testing a further two wells.

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A company executive told a Senate inquiry the joint venture was between Origin and Falcon but said it had nothing to do with Vekselberg.

“We have no relationship at all. There is an (about four per cent) interest by Mr Vekselberg but it is a passive interest.”

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