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DUTCH TRADER UNDER PROBE

European oil price investigation widens

London, May 18, 2013

The European Commission investigation into possible oil price manipulation extended beyond three major companies to a smaller niche trading house, while a Finnish refinery said it had been asked for information.

Dutch trading house Argos Energies is being investigated by the European authorities, a source familiar with the investigation said yesterday.

The mid-sized trading company, which deals in physical oil products and owns storage facilities, was visited by inspectors from the European Commission on Tuesday.

Authorities raided the London bureau of pricing agency Platts and the offices of Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP on Tuesday in the biggest cross-border action since the probe into rigging of Libor benchmark interest rates.

The source said that inspectors were still on the premises of Argos Energies yesterday and that it was also the last day of the inspection at the company.

"Market participation and liquidity are unchanged," a Platts official said.

Meanwhile Neste Oil, a Finnish refinery, said it had received a request from the European Commission to provide information, although it said it was not under inspection.

The investigation is focused on whether there was collusion to distort prices of crude, refined oil products and ethanol traded during the Platts market-on-close system - a daily half-hour "window" of trading during which the agency determines prices through a series of bids, offers and trades.-Reuters




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