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Sempra Says Suit Has No Merit

Sempra Energy is deciding whether it will file a counter suit in Mexico against a real estate broker who has accused the company of colluding with Baja California government officials in an "appalling abuse of power and corruption."

Casas Departmentos y Oficinas, headquartered in Mexico City, is the only remaining plaintiff of three in a suit filed in February in Superior Court in San Diego. The suit seeks damages of $5.5 million, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune, and alleges that Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther and Sempra colluded to seize land in Tijuana that was planned as the site for a $1.7 billion Marathon Oil energy center. Plans for the center were dropped after Baja California retracted leases (see NGI, March 8, 2004). The suit alleges that the leases were pulled at the behest of Sempra, a Marathon competitor.

Santiago Gracia, an officer of Casas Departmentos y Oficinas, told the Union Tribune that his company was harmed when the leases were pulled because "we didn't get the commissions we were supposed to get." Two other plaintiffs dropped out of the suit last month. Sempra spokesman Art Larson told NGI that the company was considering a counter suit in Mexico, noting that the suit by Gracia makes false allegations that have harmed the company's reputation. Marathon is not a party to the lawsuit, a spokesman said. An attorney for Gracia did not return a call for comment.

Meanwhile, Sempra is the only firm that has begun construction on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receipt terminal in Baja California. Construction of the company's Energia Costa Azul project is well under way (see NGI, March 20).

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