New Demands Sent to TNK-BP

TNK-BP faced more bureaucratic hurdles Tuesday when labor authorities announced an investigation into purported employment violations and fined the company 41,000 rubles ($1,750) and the Federal Tax Service demanded detailed information on BP secondees.

The State Labor Inspectorate said in a statement that its latest investigation was the result of a failure by TNK-BP managers to convince officials that the company had properly dealt with violations found in a surprise inspection.

The tax service had ordered the company to hand over foreign secondees' documents verifying business trips, time sheets and copies of passport pages showing foreign travel, company spokesman Vladimir Bobolyov said.

TNK-BP must submit the information, covering a two-year period from January 2006 to December 2007, within 10 days or face penalties, he said.

"First of all this is not a tax claim, it's a request for additional information about secondees," Bobolyov said, adding that the company would comply with the order.

Facing increasing pressure from the state through government inspections and raids, one of the issues at the core of the fight between Dudley and AAR, the consortium that represents TNK-BP's Russian partners, has been a drastic cut in foreign employees called for by the Russian shareholders.

Many see the hand of the government behind the demands made by the Russian shareholders, Mikhail Fridman and German Khan's Alfa Bank, Viktor Vekselberg's Renova and Len Blavatnik's Access Industries.

AAR representatives declined to comment Tuesday on the latest problems facing TNK-BP.

In a separate development, foreigners not employed by TNK-BP are now finding it tougher to get security passes to the firm's Moscow office, a source familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Moscow city authorities again rejected calls to raise above 71 the number of foreign employees allowed to work directly for the company.

"We were satisfied with the minimum amount and told [the TNK-BP shareholders] to reach an agreement themselves. If they agree and the need arises to raise this quota, we are prepared to increase it," Deputy Mayor Valery Vinogradov told reporters.