Argentina has started legal proceedings against five companies, three British and two American, which are drilling for oil and gas in the disputed Falkland Islands, raising tensions in a diplomatic row over the islands' sovereignty.
Argentina's minister for the Falklands, known as Las Malvinas in Argentina, announced the start of the lawsuit in London on Friday, saying a judge in Rio Grande, Argentina, had agreed to take on the case.
The main companies involved in oil drilling in the Falklands are Premier Oil, Noble Energy, Falkland Oil and Gas, Rockhopper and Edison International.
Daniel Filmus told a press conference at the residence of the Argentine ambassador to London that his country was determined to use international and national law to pursue the case. He said the proceedings had been brought against three U.K.-listed firms and two firms listed in the United States.
He said anyone found guilty of illegal exploration in Argentina would face a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison, while sentences for illegal extraction would be even longer. The judge will now decide how to proceed.
Earlier this month, Falklands oil explorers Premier Oil and Falkland Oil and Gas kick-started their 2015 drilling campaign by announcing they had found oil and gas at the first well in a nine-month program.
In response, Argentina said it would start legal proceedings against the energy firms, leading to the two countries summoning each other's ambassadors for a dressing down.
The Falkland Islands government said it had a right to develop its own economy.
"Exploration drilling has been happening in Falkland Islands waters for many years," it said. "The government of Argentina continues to ignore our inalienable right to determine our own future."
It is the latest diplomatic spat between Britain and Argentina, who fought a short war over the Falklands in 1982 which Britain won. The war killed more than 600 Argentine and 255 British soldiers.
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