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Special forces raid BP Moscow offices

Move crushes hopes BP could deflect attention away from its failure to tie up a deal with Rosneft of Russia

Hopes that BP could take the focus away from its failure to tie-up a ground-breaking deal with Rosneft in Russia were crushed on Wednesday when black-clad special forces raided its main offices in Moscow.

The law enforcement officers were acting with the consent of a court in Tyumen, where minority shareholders are pursuing a bn (£1.8bn) compensation claim against BP over the collapse of the share swap with Rosneft.

The move comes less than 24 hours after the Russian state-owned oil company triumphantly unveiled an alternative strategic alliance to explore the Russian Arctic with BP’s rival ExxonMobil.

Lawyers acting for Andrei Prokhorov, a disgruntled shareholder from BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP, said the raid was a reaction to BP’s failure to provide documents on the proposed tie-up between the UK firm and state-owned Rosneft.

“We therefore applied once again to the court of arbitration of Tyumen region to have the measures to secure evidence replaced, and on 30 August the court permitted the bailiff to examine documents held by BP Exploration Operating Company Limited,” said Dmitri Chepurenko, a partner in the Liniya Prava legal practice which represents Prokhorov but also – allegedly – the Alfa Access Renova (AAR) consortium led by oligarchs such as Mikhail Fridman.

BP dismissed the raid as unnecessary and said there were no grounds for anyone to seek compensation over the collapse of the Rosneft deal. “We do not believe there is any legitimate basis whatsoever for the claim launched against BP in the Tyumen court and we intend to defend our interests vigorously,” said a spokesman at BP’s London headquarters, adding: “We do not believe there are legitimate grounds for today’s raid.”

Bob Dudley, the BP chief executive, unveiled the Rosneft share swap and exploration deal in January in a fanfare of publicity, presenting it as a key new initiative following the disastrous Gulf of Mexico blowout which damaged a strategy centred on US deep-water drilling.

But the Rosneft arrangement was opposed by the AAR consortium, which argued that the tie-up should be between Rosneft and TNK-BP, not between Rosneft and BP alone. Neither Rosneft nor BP favoured the latter arrangement and the deal fell through in May. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds