BP PLC on Thursday said it was investigating an allegation of bribery at its tanker chartering division after a letter detailing alleged corruption was sent to its chief executive last week.
The British energy giant issued a statement after The Daily Telegraph reported that BP was investigating a "serious case of bribery and corruption."
Responding to Thursday's report, BP said, "We can confirm that the chief executive's office did receive a letter -- as described [in the newspaper] -- last week.
"BP conducts its business to the highest ethical standards. We take all allegations of this sort extremely seriously and always investigate them," it added.
Details of the alleged corruption were contained in a letter written to chief executive Robert Dudley by a whistleblower describing himself only as a "BP employee," according to The Daily Telegraph.
The paper, which has seen the letter, said the central claim concerns the alleged chartering of tankers at preferential terms for a supplier in return for cash payments to a senior BP employee.
It added that a copy of letter had been sent to Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which recently gained more powers in tackling bribery following changes to the country's Bribery Act last July.
Contacted by AFP, an SFO spokesman refused to comment on whether it would launch an investigation into the alleged bribery at BP.
Britain's new Bribery Act, which updates its decades-old laws on corruption, creates new offenses of offering or receiving a bribe, bribing foreign public officials, or failing to prevent a bribe being paid on behalf of an organization.
British-based companies can be prosecuted under the new law regardless of where the offenses occurred. Foreign firms with a listing in London are not automatically brought into the law's reach, however, as the question of jurisdiction is left to the British courts to decide.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012