Investor gives shares to Gulf Keystone's CEO

One of Gulf Keystone Petroleum's biggest shareholders transferred more than 11 million shares to the oil prospector's chief executive Todd Kozel last month – without his knowing of the transfer.

The details were disclosed by the company in an announcement to investors yesterday. The shareholder – Gulf Keystone Petroleum Co LLC (GKP LLC) – is 40 per cent owned by Mr Kozel and 10 per cent owned by Ali al-Qabandi, the oil company's business development director.

Yet GKP LLC, which until recently owned more than 5 per cent of the AIM-listed firm, made the transfer of 11.6 million shares to Mr Kozel and 4 million to Mr Qabandi at nil cost, without the prior knowledge of either individual. At yesterday's closing price, the tranches were worth £17m and £6m respectively.

"Following the transfer, the company has been informed that GKP LLC is no longer a shareholder in the company," Gulf Keystone said.

The transfer came to light after the company examined its share register for May. Mr Kozel has since informed Gulf Keystone that the transfer shares are beneficially owned by his brothers and his father. But his ongoing $100m (£61m) divorce battle with his wife of 18 years, Ashley Kozel, means that, for now, he cannot pass the stock on to the beneficial owners.

The disclosure comes after it emerged in April that an asset injunction had been put in place stopping Mr Kozel from dealing in his shares as part of the divorce fight, which involves allegations over the extent of Mr Kozel's stake in Gulf Keystone.

GKP LLC also transferred more than 20 million shares to the Middle Eastern conglomerate Gibca, an investor in GKP LLC. Another 4 million shares in the oil firm were transferred to Ibrahim al-Khaldi, a former Gulf Keystone employee who also owns part of GKP LLC.

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