Russia's state-owned oil giant Rosneft has filed a lawsuit against Japanese and other participants of the Sakhalin-1 offshore oil and gas project, demanding some 89 billion roubles ($1.4 billion) for "unfounded" gains, a local court said Tuesday.
The claim was filed against five entities, including Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Co., in which Japan's economy ministry invests, and a unit of Exxon Mobil Corp. of the United States, according to the court in the Sakhalin region that received the complaint last Friday.
(Supplied 2003 file shows the Sakhalin-1 project)
The claims against Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development, in which major Japanese trading companies Marubeni Corp. and Itochu Corp. also own stakes, totaled some 26.5 billion roubles. Rosneft claims the "unfounded" funds were acquired by the five companies between July 2015 and May 2018, the complaint said.
Participating companies and Rosneft, which controls a neighboring oil field, were at odds over how to distribute crude oil, a source familiar with the project said.
"The lawsuit will not directly affect the oil trade between Japan and Russia," the source said.
Japan depends on Russia for 6 percent of its total oil imports, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The Sakhalin-1 project, launched in 1995, is a large-scale crude oil and natural gas development project off the Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, of which 30 percent are owned by Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development. It started oil production in October 2005 and began shipping some of it to Japan in 2006.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference, "Sakhalin-1 is an important project. We would like to follow the discussions between the related parties while seeking to grasp the situation."
The legal action by Rosneft, led by Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin, a close aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin, comes at a time Japan and Russia are deepening economic cooperation including in natural resources development.