The Argentinian government has launched lawsuits against five international firms searching for oil and gas in the Falkland Islands.

Argentina’s minster for the Falkland Islands Daniel Filmus said Friday that a judge in Argentina has agreed to hear the cases, Reuters said.

The government is reportedly building cases for alleged illegal exploration activity against Houston-based Noble Energy, UK-based Premier Oil, UK-based Falkland Oil and Gas, UK-based Rockhopper and Washington DC based Edison International.

The Falkland Islands has been at the center of a decades long territorial dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom.

Filmus told Reuters that anyone found guilty of illegally exploring Argentinian land could face between 5 to 10 years in prison and an even more severe penalty if illegal extraction of hydrocarbons is involved.

UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond told Sky News the lawsuits are “an outrageous piece of bullying” and said the his agency will “take any action we can to resist it.”

The government of the Falkland Islands also denounced the suits, calling the move another attempt by Argentina to ignore the territory’s “right to determine our own future.”

“We have the right to develop our economy, including the hydrocarbons industry, and we are exercising that right. Exploration drilling has been happening in Falkland Islands waters for many years,” the Falkland government said.


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