Lukoil boss held in Libya over leak

The Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the head of Lukoil in Libya has been arrested. Russian citizen Aleksandr Tsigankov was detained in Tripoli more than a week ago but still hasn't been charged.

According to reports, the arrest is related to an investigation into a tender for major gas deposits.

Russia's “Vedomosti” newspaper  quoted a source as saying Tsigankov was detained over a suspected leak of information before the tender this month for gas exploration in Libya.  More than 30 companies are bidding to explore 12 territories for gas.

The paper also suggested that Tsigankov is being questioned as a witness and not as a suspect.

The Russian consul in Libya Oleg Fomin said Moscow hopes the incident will soon be resolved.

“At this point the embassy is taking all necessary measures to secure the freedom of our citizen. He is feeling well and being kept in normal conditions. We hope this will soon be over,” Fomin said.

Lukoil is Russia's largest oil company and a key player in the international energy market.

In the middle of 2006 a subsidiary of the company, Lukoil Overseas, opened its office in Tripoli. This came less than two years after international sanctions were lifted from Libya and the country opened up its oil and gas sectors for foreign investors.

Libya has vast oil and gas reserves, but three quarters of its territory has not been geologically searched. It’s for this reason that Lukoil sees it as an attractive proposition.  

The Russian company has been trying for several years to explore reserves in the North African country.

But now with the murky story of the detention of one of its top employees, Lukoil may reconsider its future plans for Libya.