Russian authorities in second raid on BP's Moscow offices
Wednesday 21 May 2008
The Russian premises of the oil giant BP were searched yesterday for the second time in recent months, prompting renewed fears of a campaign to pressure shareholders into selling their stakes to a state-controlled company. Additionally, the Russian Interior Ministry said it was investigating back-tax claims against two units linked to the company.
A company spokesman, Vladimir Buyanov, said he believed the FSB, the Russian security services, were behind the search. The FSB refused to comment. Mr Buyanov said the company was co-operating with the search and staff had continued to work.
Analysts have long suspected state energy giant Gazprom is keen to muscle in on BP's Russian operation, TNK-BP, which is a joint venture between BP and a group of Russian billionaires including Viktor Vekselberg and Mikhail Fridman. The company is the third biggest oil producer in Russia and one of the 10 biggest private oil companies in the world.
Reports suggest that back-tax claims for 2002-2003 could amount to more than £20m. The company paid $1.4bn (£711m) in back taxes in 2006.
Yesterday's search is the second time the company has been investigated recently. In March, the offices of BP and TNK-BP were searched. The FSB accused a TNK-BP employee and his brother of industrial espionage, saying they were passing on secret information to foreign oil companies to give them a competitive edge over Russian companies. Ilya Zaslavsky, a Russian national who also holds a US passport and works for the company, was arrested with his brother Alexander who ran an alumni project for the British Council in Russia. The Russian authorities had shortly before insisted Britain close British Council offices outside Moscow.
At the end of March, 148 foreign employees of TNK-BP were withdrawn from Russia, after authorities accused them of violating visa regulations. A minority shareholder is also dragging TNK-BP through the courts, accusing it of harming the company's interests by hiring foreign specialists.
TNK-BP has already been pressured into selling its stake in the vast Kovykta gas field to Gazprom, and last month the business paper Vedomosti quoted sources inside Gazprom saying there was a deal to sell a controlling stake in the company to the state energy giant for $20bn by the end of the year.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 4 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
- 5 Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook CEO's one simple test for who to hire
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Saudi Arabia executions now at 'unprecedented rate' after kingdom kills four more in two days
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
iJobs Money & Business
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...
£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...