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BP Investigates Allegations of Bribery in Tanker-Chartering Unit

BP Plc said it’s investigating charges of bribery and corruption in a unit that charters oil tankers.

An anonymous informant sent a letter to Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley and the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office saying that tanker contracts were awarded on preferential terms in exchange for cash payments to a BP employee, the Daily Telegraph reported today.

“We can confirm that the chief executive’s office did receive a letter,” BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said. “BP conducts its business to the highest ethical standards. We take all allegations of this sort extremely seriously and always investigate them.”

The allegations add to BP’s legal problems after the company this month agreed to a $7.8 billion payout to victims of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in U.S. history. BP Shipping Ltd., the world’s second-largest charterer of tankers, said on Aug. 16 it lost $143.6 million in 2010 because of “challenging market conditions” and lower hire costs for tankers.

BP is the world’s third-largest hirer of tankers that carry crude oil after Royal Dutch Shell Plc and China International United Petroleum & Chemical Co., according to Poten & Partners, a New York-based shipbroker and maritime consultancy. The company’s shipping division chartered 422 crude oil tankers for single voyages in 2011, or 5 percent of all tankers reported as hired to the market.

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