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Companies Linked to Zuma’s Nephew Restart Congo Oil Exploration

Caprikat Ltd. and Foxwhelp Ltd. have restarted exploration of oil blocks along Lake Albert in Democratic Republic of Congo after a court last week rescinded an injunction won by Tullow Oil Plc in September.

The companies will continue with technical programs begun before the injunction, and are considering offers for seismic exploration, Giuseppe Ciccarelli, a representative for the two companies in Congo, said today.

“We’ve already started over the last few days,” Ciccarelli said in Kinshasa, the capital. Exploration will take 12 to 18 months, he said.

British Virgin Islands-registered Caprikat and Foxwhelp received a presidential decree in June giving them control of oil blocks 1 and 2 on Lake Albert along Congo’s border with Uganda. The blocks were previously claimed by Tullow, which owns adjacent blocks on the Ugandan side, and Divine Inspiration Group Ltd., a South African group. Neither company received a presidential decree.

Foxwhelp and Caprikat are controlled by a Swiss-based fund of investors, including Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, Ciccarelli said. He declined to name other shareholders.

The companies have held “superficial” talks with “big companies” who are interested in investing in the blocks, Ciccarelli said. The budget for the exploration phase will come from the Swiss-based fund of shareholders, he said.

Tullow’s Response

Tullow will continue its legal case against Foxwhelp and Caprikat in the British Virgin Islands, a company spokesman said today in an e-mailed response to questions. Tullow is also pursuing another case against Congo at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.

Divine Inspiration Group, which also owns a stake in block 3 on Lake Albert, has asked for $5.2 million in reimbursement from Congo, as well as a presidential decree for three other blocks for which the company has a production-sharing agreement.

Congo signed an accord in October with Uganda and Kenya to study the construction of an oil pipeline from Lake Albert to a port near Mombasa, Kenya, Ciccarelli said. Officials from Foxwhelp and Caprikat advised Congo on the pipeline, he said, which will be co-owned by the three governments.

The preliminary proposal calls for a 1,300-kilometer (808-mile) pipeline that will cost as much as $2.6 billion and take at least four years to plan, finance and build, he said.

Tullow was not part of the discussions, its spokesman said. The London-based company will focus on an export pipeline along with its partners on the Ugandan side, China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Total SA, he said.

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