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TNK-BP Probes Corruption Claims by Former Logistics Chief

July 24 (Bloomberg) -- TNK-BP, the Russian oil venture of BP Plc, told a London judge it was conducting an internal probe into allegations of corruption against it, and executive director German Khan, by a former employee.

The claims “concern the bribery and corruption of senior public officials, and the improper funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to TNK’s documents from a U.K. court hearing today. TNK said the claims made by Igor Lazurenko, its former Russian head of logistics, weren’t proven and were an attempt at “naked blackmail.”

The company, jointly owned by BP and a group of Russian billionaires, asked the judge to set a timetable for the exchange of documents, which Lazurenko said are evidence of corruption. TNK has hired a law firm, which it didn’t identify, to investigate the allegations, according to court filings.

BP, based in London, has put its stake in TNK-BP up for sale and is in talks with Russia’s state-owned oil producer OAO Rosneft on a deal to sell its share of Russia’s third-largest oil producer.

Dmitry Sergeev, a spokesman for TNK-BP, declined to immediately comment. Lazurenko’s lawyer Michael Armstrong didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

In court filings for today’s hearing, Lazurenko said he resigned from TNK in April and fled Russia. He said in a statement provided to the court that he has evidence of payments to a bank account by a company which won a tender from TNK.

Khan, Slavneft

Lazurenko claims Khan, also chairman of Slavneft Oil & Gas Co., said the funds were to be used for bribing officials. The allegations against Khan are “hopelessly vague” and are denied, TNK said in its own court documents. A phone-call to Khan’s Moscow office wasn’t answered.

The court should allow disclosure of Lazurenko’s documents to BP and public authorities such as police or fraud investigators, the company said.

The company, based in Moscow, disciplined 92 people last year in an internal corruption probe which led to 37 criminal cases. BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley decided to look for a sale of its TNK-BP stake after clashing repeatedly with the other shareholders, who last year blocked an alliance between the British company and Rosneft.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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