High Price for Attack on TNK-BP
- By Unknown
- Mar. 28 2008 00:00
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TNK-BP has taken a cooperative if not conciliatory stance, saying that "it is a commercial organization engaged in normal legitimate commercial activity" and that "it is cooperating with authorities." When told that employees assigned to the company by BP had the wrong visas, TNK-BP announced that it was suspending all 148 workers.
But it is unlikely that TNK-BP's troubles will end despite the firm's willingness to cooperate with authorities and correct whatever shortcomings they find rather than go to court. This is because several government agencies are finding faults in what appears to be a orchestrated campaign to coerce TNK-BP into giving up whatever the government or state-controlled companies want.
It is unclear whether the ultimate goal might be to force TNK-BP to sell its Kovykta gas field to Gazprom at a lower price or to decrease BP's share from 50 percent. But there is no question that the pressure tactics resemble those faced by Shell and its Japanese partners in the Shell-led Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project in 2006. Shell's troubles with environmental inspectors only disappeared after it agreed to sell control of the project to Gazprom.
The fact that TNK-BP is grappling with spy charges -- in contrast with Shell facing accusations of environmental violations -- suggests that it is becoming more difficult for the authorities to get what they want while pretending that politics have nothing to do with the redistribution of business assets.
The people who are using selective justice to mastermind this attack on TNK-BP will probably prevail. But their victory would be a defeat for Dmitry Medvedev, who has crusaded for supremacy of law and its indiscriminate application, as well as for investors who have hoped that the president-elect would have the power to implement this vision.