OCCRP shows how BP Turned a ‘Blind Eye’ to Corruption in Prize Azerbaijan Gas Project
Leaked documents show two Azerbaijan state companies were set to siphon off $1.7 billion from Shah Deniz 2, which feeds the Southern Gas Corridor to Europe.
OCCRP Key Findings
- Using fake charges and padded contracts, two companies owned by Azerbaijan’s state oil company looted the expansion of BP’s operations in the Caspian Sea, known as Shah Deniz 2.
- BP was repeatedly alerted to accusations of corruption on the project but took no action, multiple sources told OCCRP.
- Much of the money was set to be paid before any profits went to Azerbaijan’s state budget, meaning it would come from the public purse.
- Around the same time, the director of one of the state companies and his wife bought lavish properties worth over $10 million in Miami.
- Hundreds of millions of dollars disappeared as Azerbaijan carried out a broad clampdown on civil society and independent journalism.
Turning a Blind Eye
- Concerns about embezzlement in Shah Deniz 2 weren’t just raised by BP employees.
- In 2018, Khuraman Abil, the former head of Bos Shelf’s administrative team, filed a case in a district court in southern Baku alleging that the company had withheld $214,000 of her salary and that she had been unfairly dismissed when she complained about corruption.
- The court ruled against Abil, who had worked for Bos Shelf for 16 years before being fired, saying her case was unfounded and her claim for damages came too late.
- She appealed all the way through Azerbaijan’s notoriously corrupt judicial system to the Supreme Court, which dismissed the case.
- But a spreadsheet of people’s salaries — which Abil said was accidentally sent to her while she was working for Bos Shelf and which contains data also found in the BP files — indicates that the company did indeed keep most of her paycheck.
- It shows that BP paid Bos Shelf just under $3,300 per month for her salary.
- In court documents, however, Abil says she received only $1,100, which Bos Shelf converted to 803 manats (around $470) using a punitive exchange rate. Payslips confirm she received significantly less than BP was paying Bos Shelf.
- Abil said Akhundov, the company’s director, withheld pay and holiday from many of Bos Shelf’s workers while employing his family on inflated salaries
- At the same time, she and another former Bos Shelf worker said the company inflated the price of goods and services it charged BP, including repainting old machinery and invoicing for it as if it were new.
- Abil told OCCRP.
- “Let’s say if something costs one manat; they make fake documents which say the same good or service costs 100 manats,”
- “How has BP worked [in Azerbaijan] for 30 years? A sane company wouldn’t come here.”
11. A former worker at the Deep Water Jacket Factory, Arif Javadov, said he also witnessed people in Bos Shelf invoicing for nonexistent goods, such as crane parts, then stealing the profits.
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