BP's failed tie-up with Russia's Rosneft came back to haunt the company yesterday after bailiffs searching for documents connected to the doomed partnership mounted a raid on its offices in Moscow.
The action came less than 24 hours after the US oil firm ExxonMobil signed an agreement with Rosneft, freezing out the UK group by securing the chance to explore the same Arctic oil and gas blocks that BP had planned to exploit just months ago. The bailiffs did not give any reason for the raid but lawyers for minority shareholders in TNK-BP Holdings, the main subsidiary of the oil company's Russian joint venture, said it was connected to their $3bn (£1.8bn) lawsuit over the collapsed tie-up.
BP and the Alfa Access Renova consortium own equal stakes in TNK-BP Limited, which in turn owns around 95 per cent of TNK-BP Holdings.
In July, a court in Tyumen in Siberia upheld a claim by some of the investors who own the remaining 5 per cent for damages as a result of the failure of the Rosneft tie-up. Yesterday, their law firm said the raid had come after BP failed to furnish documents connected to the deal. "We therefore applied once again in the Court of Arbitration of Tyumen Region to have the measures to secure evidence replaced," they said. The minority shareholders include Andrei Prokhorov, Oleg Gavrilenko, Svetlana Rodina, Klaus Edward, Evgeniy Filippov and Vladimir Sohnenko.
BP said there was "no legitimate basis" for the Tyumen claim, which also names TNK-BP Holdings directors Peter Charow and Richard Sloan. A spokesman for the company confirmed that the raid commenced at 7:30am Moscow time, when staff were asked to leave. "We see these actions as pressure on BP's operations in Russia," BP Russia president, Jeremy Huck, told the Interfax news agency.
The raid is the latest twist in a saga that has bruised both the oil company and its American chief executive Bob Dudley, who had unveiled the Rosneft pact amid much fanfare in January.
But things turned sour when Alfa Access Renova objected, claiming that the move violated its existing shareholder agreement with BP.