Oil CEO released on bail

  • 2007-06-27
  • From staff and wire reports

MILLION EURO MAN: The court decided to allow oil executive PaulNelson English to leave Lithuania on the condition that he pay a 1 million eurobail.

VILNIUS 's Paul Nelson English, CEO of Mazeikiu Nafta, has been allowed to leave Lithuania pending a 1 million euro bail in a June 26 ruling. English was previously on orders not to leave the country.

"After English filed in an appeal and arguments that it is unreasonable for him to stay in Lithuania, considering all pros and cons, the pledge not to leave country was replaced with a 1 million euro bail. The amount of the bail was fixed taking account of the grievousness of the alleged crime and the circumstances of the suspect," Prosecutor Stasys Pleinys, who is investigating the case, told BNS on June 26.

The prosecutor said that he had been assured by English that the he would cooperate as much as necessary with the investigation. Prosecutors plan to interrogate English after they have gathered more technical information about the case.

English, who has announced that he will be retiring as CEO in July, is suspected of negligence. Prosecutors claim that Nelson and his deputy, Barton Lee Luck, failed to replace some pipes in a timely manner, which eventually triggered an explosion last October. The explosion led to a devastating fire at the refinery.

"Experts determined that English and Luck are culpable for delays in urgent maintenance works," prosecutor Stasys Pleinys said.

As the prosecutor explained, the delays led to a malfunction in the visbreaking unit used for recovering additional light products from vacuum residue. As a result, a worn-out pipe cracked and began leaking a highly explosive oil product that, after coming into contact with the air, exploded.

The fire caused some 40 million euros in damages, and the refinery has yet to restore throughput to pre-fire levels. The plant now processes around 15,000 tons of crude oil per day, compared with its prior working level of over 25,000 tons.

Financially, the company took a huge hit from the fire, with 2006 earnings plummeting from $313 million in 2005 to $65 million, or from $0.44 to $0.09 per share.

This week, the management of Polish concern PKN Orlen, the operator of Mazeikiu Nafta, will present Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas and Economy Minister Vytas Navickas with the company's new CEO 's Marek Mroczkowski, current board member of PKN Orlen.