Irish oil producer Petroceltic has launched legal proceedings in an attempt to identify an anonymous blogger who it claims has made defamatory claims relating to one of its top directors.
The move is the latest twist in a bitter row between the oil company and its primary investor Worldview Capital Management, which has published an open letter alleging the company had committed “fraud and corruption”
In a statement Petroceltic said: “The company had no prior knowledge or notification of the claims or concerns, but upon it becoming aware, immediately instigated an investigation in accordance with established procedures.
“On the basis of the investigation it has conducted to date, the company considers the allegations to be entirely baseless, untrue and defamatory. The company has commenced an action in the Irish Courts to ascertain the identity of the blogger.”
The company said that once identified, the blogger will be invited to demonstrate any evidence to support the allegations made.
It stated: “If no such evidence is forthcoming, the company will take appropriate legal action against any party who has made or repeats such defamatory statements in order to protect the good name and reputation of Petroceltic, its staff and consultants.”
Worldview , Petroceltic’s largest shareholder with a 29% stake, has previously criticised the group over the management of its finances.
Worldview stepped up its dispute by publishing an open letter to Petroceltic, in which it alleged the group’s project director Geoff Stevenson “as well as members of his family” have committed “fraud and corruption”.
Worldview published the letter following “public allegations”, claiming Stevenson, who is in charge of the company’s massive Ain Tsila gas field development in Algeria, could have benefited from “a scheme designed to ‘defraud the company’” by hiring contractors through a company called Petroplan using “overstated invoices”.
As a result of the allegations, Worldview said Stevenson is no longer thought to be the project director.
It said: “If correct, these public allegations suggest that shareholder value may have been compromised by the overpayment for services and/or funds being fraudulently diverted away from Petroceltic and thus its shareholders,” .
“As the largest shareholder in Petroceltic, and following our sustained and constant efforts over the last 14 months to proactively engage with the board to improve Petroceltic’s governance, we are disappointed to again raise issues that, if substantiated, further evidence a culture of inappropriate and failed governance,” it said.
Worldview has called an extraordinary general meeting for 7 September.
Petroceltic sparked public backlash from Worldview after outlining plans to issue a $175million bond secured on one of its Algerian assets.
Petroceltic subsequently backed dbut the firm stopped short of admitting defeat.