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TNK-BP’s chief accuses Russians of power abuse

TNK-BP’s chief accuses Russians of power abuse

By Louise Armitstead

Last Updated: 11:46pm BST 22/08/2008

Robert Dudley, the chief executive of TNK-BP who was forced into exile, has struck out against the Russian authorities in a public letter accusing them of abusing their powers.

The letter, which Mr Dudley wrote from his secret hiding place somewhere in central Europe, lays out a list of grievances that the chief executive believes he has suffered at the hands of Russian labour law investigators in recent months that led to his ban from Russia last week.

The letter claims: “There has been an abuse of power by the State Labour Inspectorate.”

It demands an immediate investigation, arguing that the reason for the investigation by Russian authorities stems from his bitter fight with TNK-BP’s AAR partners.

A Moscow court last week banned Mr Dudley from working in Russia for two years.

The move was the latest blow to hit the troubled firm, which has seen its two equal partners – BP, the British oil giant, and the AAR partners which comprise the four Russian oligarchs – at loggerheads over management and strategy.

The AAR Partners are Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Viktor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik.

Observers in Britain have been horrified by the treatment of Mr Dudley, his removal from Russia and his forced hiding.

AAR have dismissed these sentiments as anti-Russian and argue that, since 50pc of shareholders want Mr Dudley to step down, BP is ignoring corporate governance standards by insisting he stays. *

Mr Dudley’s letter claims TNK-BP’s management have since April 14 been the subject of seven inspections regarding compliance of labour legislation.

It alleges: “The inspection was not intended to serve the purpose of a full and comprehensive examination of TNK-BP’s compliance with labour legislation, but rather was an attempt at all costs and as soon as possible to initiate the procedure to disqualify R.W. Dudley.”

The letter describes each of the seven inspections and lists the alleged irregularities.

For instance, Mr Dudley said one state labour inspector demanded a review of TNK-BP’s Inspection Results Certificate on July 18 2008 at mid-day.

Mr Dudley said: “[He was] unable to appear… due to having been invited at exactly the same time to attend the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation for the purposes of extending his visa.

”His non-appearance would mean termination of the visa.”

Regarding another inspection that should have lasted a month but in fact took five days, Mr Dudley claimed: “The inspector knew that findings of violations would be made.”

The letter concludes: “The above circumstances are simply the most flagrant examples of the prejudicial attitude of the said officials to the inspection carried out in respect of OJSC “TNK-BP Management” and, more specifically, R.W. Dudley.”

The Labour Inspectorate denied Dudley’s claims of bias. “All the checks that took place at the firm were done by the law,” said inspectorate chief Mikhail Malyuga. AAR declined to comment.

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