Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chron Weighs In On ERHC Woes

Coming a little late to the party, Washington-based investigative reporter David Ivanovich of the Houston Chronicle penned a brief report running in Sunday's editions on the investigation of ERHC Energy's ties to political figures in Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria, almost a month after the excitement started.

Unlike his counterpart at, Ken Silverstein, Ivanovich makes no attempt to tie the investigation to embattled Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson.

You'll probably remember that ERHC On The Move proposed an article to Ivanovich's editors last February which ran on the front page above the fold, declaring that the company had struck dold in the Gulf of Guinea by securing rights to equity in Blocks 2, 3 and 4 of the immensely attracftive Joint Development Zone.

The front-page mention of this blog in the thick Feb. 8 Sunday edition brought thousands of visitors to our page.

The article that ran in February took careful note of the issues concerning ERHC's self-declared $100,000 election contribution to Sao Tome & Principe President Fradique de Menezes in 2002.

Both the Sao Tome and Nigerian governments have rejected the underlying probe that fostered the Justice Dept. and SEC investigation. The entire mess was fostered by rival oil companies seeking to obtain ERHC Energy's lucrative rights in the JDZ, most observers believe.

A high-powered Tulsa Law School professor tied to the majors wrote the attorney general's report, which was paid for by ERHC partner Pionerr Natural Resources insider George Soros, the noted Hungarian billionaire and convicted inside trader.

All this, of course, went unmentioned in Ivanovich's article, as it has in other stories recounting the search warrant served May 4 on the Company's Houston headquarters.

ERHC On The Move has learned in a conversation with the ERHC prosecutor, U.S. Atty. Mary Kit Dimke, that she is based in Washington, and traveled to Houston to be there during the search. She reportedly questioned CEO Walter Brandhuber and the company's chief accounting officer. ERHC Energy attorneys objected, but they appear to have done so after the fact since they arrived as Dimke's interview with Brandhuber was apparently breaking up..

Copies of everything seized by the FBI during the search have been returned following a June 29 hearing in Houton Federal Court.

Here is the Chronicle story:

African drilling under scrutiny
Investigators seize documents of ERHC Energy

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Federal investigators are examining Houston-based ERHC Energy and its efforts to drill for oil off West Africa, company officials revealed.

Justice Department officials have seized company documents in connection with a probe into ERHC's activities in an offshore zone jointly controlled by Nigeria and the tiny island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, the company said in a statement released Thursday.

"We are working to minimize potential distractions and focus on commercializing the company's interests" in the Joint Development Zone, ERHC Chief Executive Officer Walter Brandhuber said in a prepared statement.

A company spokesman declined to offer further details.

Little-known ERHC — whose largest shareholder is Nigerian billionaire Emeka Offor — holds some potentially lucrative rights to working interest acreage in the Joint Development Zone. Earlier this year, an ERHC unit signed production-sharing agreements with operators on three blocks of the zone.

But in December, São Tome's attorney general raised questions about ERHC's licenses and called on the U.S. to investigate.

On May 4, the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston served the company with a search warrant seeking "various records including, among other matters, documents related to correspondence with foreign government officials or entities in São Tome and Nigeria," ERHC said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Five days later, the SEC issued its own subpoena, the company said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston declined to comment.

ERHC has hired the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to assist the company. An attorney for that firm could not be reached for comment.

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