A senior BP executive alleged to have taken cash payments in return for giving multi-million pound contracts to a shipping magnate has been suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry.
BP's global chartering manager, Lars Dencker Nielsen, has been put on leave of absence since The Daily Telegraph broke the story about the bribery allegations.
The Danish national is alleged to have offered favourable terms to one of BP's shipping suppliers for cash. The allegations, under investigation, were brought to light by a whistleblower describing himself only as a "BP employee".
In a letter to BP chief executive Bob Dudley, copied in to the Serious Fraud Office, the whistleblower set out what he claimed was a five-year catalogue of bribery and corruption within the oil giant's tanker chartering department.
The author of the letter claims to have copies of bank transfers from accounts connected to the shipping group and Mr Nielsen's personal account in Denmark. BP has confirmed it received the letter and is conducting an investigation. The SFO is also understood to be looking into details contained in the letter. It is thought the SFO has contacted BP about the allegations.
There can be no certainty at this early stage in the investigation about the truth of the allegations. However investigation by The Daily Telegraph has revealed that much of the factual detail contained in the letter is correct.
Mr Nielsen could not be reached for comment. His voicemail at work had a recorded announcement made by a female colleague inviting callers to leave a message. Enquiries by email were answered with an automatic message stating: "I am currently out of the office and will not be reading emails."
BP said: "BP received an anonymous letter last month containing certain allegations. BP conducts its business to the highest ethical standards; we take all allegations of this sort extremely seriously and always investigate them. We do not comment on personnel issues."