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TNK-BP chief slams ‘abuse of power’ in Russia

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TNK-BP chief slams ‘abuse of power’ in Russia

By Ed Crooks in London

Published: August 23 2008 03:00 | Last updated: August 23 2008 03:00

Robert Dudley, the exiled chief executive of TNK-BP, has accused Moscow’s state labour inspectorate of “an abuse of power” in its repeated investigations into the company.

His allegations, made in a letter to five senior ministers and officials of the Russian Federation, were intended to shine a spotlight on the role of the authorities in the dispute, a person familiar with the company said.

Mr Dudley has been running TNK-BP, a 50:50 joint venture between BP and a group of Russian tycoons, from an undisclosed location in central Europe since leaving Moscow in July after problems with his visa. The venture has been the subject of a bitter dispute between BP and its Russian partners, represented by the Alfa-Access-Renova consortium, which has challenged TNK-BP’s strategy and performance.

Mr Dudley, an American who is backed by BP, has been a focus of AAR’s criticism, and the Russian shareholders have been pushing for his removal.

Last week a Moscow court ruled that Mr Dudley could not serve as chief executive of TNK-BP for two years because of alleged breaches of labour regulations. TNK-BP plans to file an appeal against that verdict on Monday.

In his letter to the Russian authorities, Mr Dudley said that TNK-BP Management, one of the group companies, had been inspected seven times since April over labour regulation compliance.

He wrote that the actions of the labour inspectorate staff in Moscow “were purposefully focused on imposing administrative liability on [Robert] Dudley alone”.

The inspectorate rejected Mr Dudley’s claims of bias, according to Reuters, the news agency.

AAR did not comment on Mr Dudley’s allegations, saying only that TNK-BP needed to comply properly with the relevant legislation.

Although BP still backs Mr Dudley as chief executive of TNK-BP, it has admitted that he cannot continue in the job indefinitely if he is unable to return to Moscow.

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