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Firm Stole Indian Oil, Panel Told : $31 Million Owed, Investigators Tell Senate Committee

May 09, 1989|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Investigators told a special Senate committee today that a Wichita, Kan., company has been stealing oil from Indian lands for at least the last three years.

Documents subpoenaed from Koch Industries show that the company consistently ended the year with hundreds of thousands more barrels of oil than it paid for, investigators told a special panel of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs.

Although measurement difficulties make it normal for oil companies to pay for less oil than they actually take--even up to 12,000 barrels a year--Koch documents showed that the firm ended 1986 with 803,874 excess barrels, 1987 with 671,144 excess barrels and 1988 with 474,281 more barrels than it paid for, witnesses said.

Chris Tucker, an independent oil and gas expert, said normal procedure is for oil companies to compensate for "overages" by shorting themselves in future purchases.

The volumes for the three years shown in the Koch documents were worth about $12.1 million, $11.9 million and $7.1 million, respectively.

Many of the Koch oil purchases were made on Indian lands with royalties from the oil due to Indian tribes or to individual Indians.

Chuck Norman, an accountant for the special committee, said it is easy to steal from the Indians because nobody watches the purchasers, like Koch, take oil from the tanks at the well.

Furthermore, witnesses said, substantial confusion exists among federal agencies about who is supposed to police the taking of oil from Indian lands.

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