An Argentine federal judge has ordered an embargo on some $156 million owned by companies exploring for oil off the Falklands Islands, over which Argentina claims sovereignty. She also has ordered them to stop their explorations

The ruling by Judge Lilian Herraez, published Saturday on the government tax prosecutor’s website, may be largely symbolic since none of the companies appears to have operations in the South American nation and the British flag flies over the Falklands.

The companies named include Rockhopper Exploration PLC, Premier Oil PLC and Falkland Oil and Gas Limited of Britain, as well as Noble Energy Inc. of the U.S. and Italy’s Edison International SpA. The ruling did not specify how much each would owe.

The judge said the companies lack Argentine government authorization for their explorations and also accused them of contaminating the environment.

Argentina has long claimed the islands off its Atlantic shore and staged an invasion in 1982 that was defeated by Britain.

Britain says the islands are a self-governing entity under its protection, and that islanders cannot be forced to accept Argentine sovereignty against their will.

Source: Associated Press