BP’s global chartering manager, Mr Lars Dencker Nielsen, allegedly accepted cash payments in return for giving multi-million pound contracts to a shipping magnate.

A BP employee has accused Mr Nielsen of offering favourable terms to one of BP’s shipping suppliers for cash. The whistleblower reported a five-year catalogue of bribery and corruption within BP’s chartering department and claims to have copies of bank transfers from accounts connected to the shipping group and Mr Nielsen’s personal bank account.

The whistleblower sent a letter to BP chief executive, Mr Bob Dudley, copied to the SFO. BP is currently investigating the allegations and the SFO is understood to be looking into the particulars of the letter. Meanwhile, Mr Nielsen has been put on leave of absence.

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”.