Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Energy Eye on Russia: Week 4/ Russian Police Raid BP Venture (Reuters)

The theory is that Russia wants "to buy out the Russian billionaire shareholders in the venture [in TNK-BP, a venture of BP and some billionaire Russians] to become a partner of BP in a bid to further tighten the grip over energy resources."
For those of you who weren't paying attention, because it wasn't exactly news...

"Gazprom's chairman Dmitry Medvedev won Russia's presidential election by a landslide earlier this month and has promised to follow the policies of his mentor Vladimir Putin, the architect of renationalisation of the oil industry of the past year."

Apparently the Government gave two separate reasons for the search at different times, the first: a criminal investigation into an oil firm previously related to the Russian shareholders and not BP. The second: an investigation into TNK-BP's management.

Some similarities:

"Searches and document seizures became commonplace during a campaign against oil firms YUKOS, which was brought to its knees under a multi-billion dollar back tax claim, which led to its bankruptcy and asset sales at state-forced auctions."

"In February, police raided the headquarters of Slavneft, which TNK-BP co-owns with Gazprom, and also confiscated documents in a five-year-old tax evasion investigation."

"The searches have renewed fears that the Russian government wants greater control of foreign-owned energy assets.
Last year, TNK-BP was forced to sell its stake in the Kovykta gas field at a discount price to Gazprom.
In 2006, Shell was forced to cede control of its Sakhalin gas field to Gazprom.
"We will co-operate with the authorities but we do not know what they were looking for or why they were there," a BP spokesman said."

Ah well. Good old Russia. Search and seizure. So much for Europe. Further emasculated.

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