AIM-listed oil explorer Lekoil this morning had its shares suspended after individuals purporting to be investors attempted to defraud the firm with a fake loan deal.
The West Africa focused firm was approached by people it believed were representatives of the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), which agreed a $184m loan with the company on 2 January.
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The loan, which was for drilling and development work on the Ogo field off Nigeria, was agreed with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund with an annual interest rate of 3.72 per cent.
Lekoil requested its shares be suspended at 7:37 this morning. It said that its financial exposure stood at $600,000, which it paid to Seawave Invest, which introduce it to those “purporting to be the QIA.”
In a statement this evening, the firm said the deal “seems to have been entered into by the company with individuals who have constructed a complex facade in order to masquerade as representatives of the QIA.”
The company said it would contact the relevant authorities across a number of jurisdictions without delay over the attempt to defraud Lekoil, as well as conducting its own organisation.
It added that the loan agreement agreed on 2 January was not legally binding and none of the funding would be forthcoming. It added that it had begun an investigation into Seawave and would attempt to recover the $600,000 in question.
The firm said: “Lekoil is urgently seeking to establish, alongside its legal counsel and nominated adviser, the full facts of this matter, and pending this clarification, the company has requested that its ordinary shares be suspended from trading.”
Sources close to QIA said that the organisation had no knowledge of any loan.
The firm only announced the funding on Friday. The loan was set to be distributed in five tranches over 11 months, with the first drawdown intended for February.
Shares in the company surged on the back of the news, more than doubling to 9.40p.
Seawave Invest, which lists addresses in both Ghana and the Bahamas, did not respond to a request for comment.