* Probe focuses on a 2009 deal involving $42 mln loan
* TGS-Nopec says cooperating fully with enquiry
* Shares in TGS-Nopec fall
(Adds detail from police, quotes by TGS-Nopec CFO)
OSLO, May 6 Norwegian police raided the offices
of seismic surveying company TGS-Nopec near the capital
Oslo on Tuesday and charged it with violating tax and securities
The police are investigating a 2009 contract between
TGS-Nopec, which maps the seabed for oil and gas deposits for
energy firms, and a company called Skeie Energy AS, later known
as E&P Holding AS. The deal involved a convertible loan of $42
"(Police) today presented a criminal charge against TGS for
violation of the Norwegian Tax Assessment Act and the Norwegian
Securities Trading Act," the company said in a statement.
"In connection with the criminal charge, (police) today
visited the offices of TGS in Asker with a search warrant to
investigate the matter."
TGS-Nopec shares fell from 209 Norwegian crowns ahead of the
announcement to 204.6 crowns shortly after. By 0712 GMT they
traded at 206.6 crowns.
Police told Reuters they raided several companies as part of
the investigation and arrested several people. They declined to
say who was arrested or which companies were involved.
"The persons and companies are charged with severe tax fraud
and being accessory to it. One of the companies is also accused
of market manipulation," police lawyer Marianne Bender told
Reuters. "We are in the early stages of the investigation."
TGS-Nopec said it was "fully cooperating". Chief Financial
Officer Kristian Johansen said none of the people arrested were
working at TGS-Nopec, as far as he was aware.
"They question the rationale of the contracts, but I can't
say more," he said.
TGS-Nopec took an impairment charge of $19.5 million in 2012
as it wrote down the value of its interest in E&P Holding Group.
It also agreed that, as part of a agreement over a
restructuring of E&P Holding, it would convert some its
outstanding loan to equity.
E&P Holding was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Henrik Stolen and Balazs Koranyi; writing by
Gwladys Fouche; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)