With the scent of oil hanging heavy in the atmosphere, a judge in Argentina has ordered that assets be seized from five foreign firms drilling near the Falkland Islands (pictured).
Lilian Herraez, a federal judge in Tierra del Fuego, ordered the seizure of $156 million, boats and other property, as reported by Argentina's state news agency Telam. She said the companies did not have the required permissions from Buenos Aires in order to explore.
Last April, a group of UK exploration companies found oil and gas in an area north of the Falklands. They appear optimistic as to their chances of recovering much more from beneath the ocean bed.
The companies named in the demand were Premier Oil, Falkland Oil and Gas, Rockhopper Exploration, Noble Energy and Edison International Spa. Three are based in the UK, another is American and the fifth is French-owned but based in Italy.
The companies in question do not generally hold any assets in Argentina or use Argentine waters, so it is not clear how Argentina could appropriate the goods.
Argentina claims sovereignty over what it calls ‘Islas Malvinas’. The dispute with the UK has become more pronounced in recent times under President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and further escalated with the discovery of oil deposits.
Elections in the South American country are due in October and election time is always a good one to focus on grievances with outside forces.