Exclusive: Trafigura deals in disputed Sudanese oil

Wed Feb 8, 2012 4:19am EST
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By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - Swiss-based commodities trader Trafigura has bought oil which the South Sudanese government claims was seized by Sudan, its northern neighbor and former civil war foe, industry sources told Reuters, and is now in a legal dispute over ownership.

The tanker of crude oil is one of three seized cargoes forming part of some $815 million in oil revenues that South Sudan's President Salva Kiir accused Sudan of "looting" and which the government in Khartoum said provided compensation for unpaid transit fees.

Landlocked, war-ravaged South Sudan must pump its oil to the Red Sea via a pipeline across Sudan to Port Sudan to earn oil revenues which account for 98 percent of the seven-month-old country's income.

Last month, South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrels per day of production in an escalating row over the three cargoes. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said in an interview on Friday tensions with South Sudan over oil transit payments could lead to war between the two countries.

Trafigura, the world's third largest oil trader, bought one cargo of the Nile Blend grade crude loaded aboard the Indian-flagged 'Ratna Shradha', industry sources familiar with the transaction said. The fate of the other two cargoes is unclear.

South Sudanese authorities said this vessel loaded 600,000 barrels of oil in Sudan provided by Khartoum-based oil producer Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company between January 19-20.

There is, however, no indication that GNPOC, led by China's CNPC, had a role in marketing the oil. Several CNPC officials in Beijing either declined to comment or declined any knowledge of the transaction.