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Peru sues Spain's Repsol for $4.5 bn over oil spill

By Luis Jaime CISNEROS
A resident of a community affected by the Repsol oil spill on the coast of Peru protests against the Spanish oil company, on January 20, 2022 in Callao. ©AFP

Lima (AFP) - Peru has filed suit against Spanish energy company Repsol over the massive January oil spill that ravaged its coast, seeking $4.5 billion in damages.

The lawsuit was filed before the 27th civil court in Lima against six companies: Repsol (Spain), Mapfre Global Risks (Spain), Mapfre Peru Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (Peru), La Pampilla Refinery (Peru), Transtotal Maritime Agency (Peru) and Fratelli d'amico Armatori (Italy, owner of the tanker involved), Peru's consumer protection agency said.

"These suits could create precedents for oil spills that cause damage and collective non-material damages due to environmental pollution of coastal areas," said Julian Palacin, executive director of the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI), in a statement released late Friday.

INDECOPI has sought three billion dollars for environmental damage to Peru's coast, and another 1.5 billion dollars as compensation to consumers, locals and others affected by the disaster, the suit says. 

Repsol in a statement Saturday rejected the suit as baseless.

"(INDECOPI's) estimates are lacking the bare minimum needed to support the indicated figures," the Spanish oil company said, regarding the $4.5 billion sought by Peru.

The spill occurred on January 15 while the Italian-flagged tanker "Mare Doricum" was unloading crude oil at the Repsol-owned La Pampilla refinery in Ventanilla, 30 kilometers north of Lima. 

The oil company attributed the incident to waves caused by a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Tonga, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, and the Peruvian government described it as an "ecological disaster."

The oil spill affected more than 700,000 residents, mostly fishermen, and forced the closure of twenty beaches and dozens of businesses in the area.

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