Russian bailiffs search BP Moscow office: company
Russian bailiffs on Wednesday conducted a search at the offices of British energy giant BP in Moscow, in an operation apparently linked to its failed deal with Rosneft, the company said.
"We are cooperating with the security organs," BP's spokesman in Russia Vladimir Buyanov told Moscow Echo radio.
He said that the operation was being conducted in line with a ruling by an arbitration court in the Siberian region of Tyumen, which is hearing a case over the Rosneft deal that collapsed in May.
The court had earlier this summer agreed to hear a case from minority shareholders in the holding company of BP's Russian joint venture TNK-BP over the collapse of the planned mega-deal between BP and state-run Rosneft.
The shareholders are claiming that TNK-BP suffered losses of 87 billion rubles ($3 billion) as a result of the protracted disintegration of the BP-Rosneft joint venture.
"I believe that the operations by the bailiffs are linked to this but I do not have precise information on this question," Buyanov said.
The Interfax news agency said that all employees had been requested to leave the building in central Moscow and go home, with the exception of top executives and lawyers.
According to Russian media, the first hearing into the complaints will start in Siberia on October 12.
Rosneft's deal with BP -- personally blessed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- was initially hailed as a historic breakthrough that would see the two firms found a joint venture for Arctic exploration and take a cross-holding.
But it collapsed after BP's partners in TNK-BP -- a group of Russian oligarchs -- made a legal complaint that the Rosneft deal infringed their own shareholder pact with the British firm.
BP already had a chequered history in Russia, even before this year's Rosneft saga.
It was involved in a bruising power struggle with the Russian authorities and the oligarchs over control of the venture that ended with TNK-BP's then chief Robert Dudley being booted out of Russia in 2008.
In an astonishing irony, Dudley is now BP's overall chief executive and had championed the Rosneft deal.
Strangely, the search by bailiffs came a day after Rosneft and ExxonMobil agreed a stunning Arctic exploration deal which analysts said should effectively replace the now defunct BP accord.
© 2011 AFP