Documents seized from BP’s offices during a series of raids by masked bailiffs cannot be used as evidence, a Russian court has decided.
By Rowena Mason
6:37PM BST 10 Oct 2011
The ruling is a rare victory for BP in Russia, after a tumultuous year that has seen the collapse of its £10bn deal with state oil company Rosneft.
This new ruling relates to a $4.9bn (£3bn) lawsuit filed against BP by an obscure minority shareholder in its TNK-BP joint venture.
The plaintiffs, led by Andrei Prokhorov, are claiming that the failure of BP’s attempts to do a deal with Rosneft was costly to TNK-BP shareholders.
The attempted deal caused a bitter row earlier this year between TNK-BP’s two main owners, BP and four Russian billionaires.
The oligarchs managed to halt BP’s agreement with Rosneft, arguing it went against a shareholder agreement governing TNK-BP.
However, both sides were unsuccessful in trying to replace BP with TNK-BP as the main vehicle for the transaction.
Lawyers for the minority investors say two BP board representatives in particular frustrated TNK-BP’s efforts to replace BP in the deal with Rosneft.
They won a ruling in a Siberian court ruling allowing bailiffs to search BP’s offices, but this order has now been overturned.
Dmitriy Chepurenko, a lawyer for the minority investors, said: “We can ask the court to demand the required documents in the course of the hearing.”
BP is “vigorously defending” itself against the lawsuit, having said: “We do not believe there is any legitimate basis whatsoever for such a claim.”