Congo's Wildlife Authority Says That it Presses Charges Against Soco

The Congolese Wildlife Authority, known as ICCN, filed charges with Congo’s attorney general against London-based Soco International Plc after its employees allegedly forced their way into Virunga National Park, the park’s director said.

Soco employees entered the park near the Democratic Republic of Congo’s border with Uganda accompanied by 12 Congolese soldiers on Feb. 14, Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga National Park director, said in a phone interview today. The company, which has rights to an oil exploration block that overlaps Virunga, was told in a letter from ICCN in December that it could not conduct oil exploration activities in the park.

“The forcible entry is blatantly false,” Soco’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Roger Cagle said by phone yesterday from London when informed by Bloomberg News that ICCN was considering filing charges. Cagle said Soco was with a provincial member of parliament and had permission to enter the park.

Cagle was not in his office when called for comment by Bloomberg today. He did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

Soco was in the park conducting an environmental assessment in an effort to receive permission to begin exploration, Cagle said yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in London at mkavanagh9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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