Sibir Energy, the London-listed but 100% Russia-focused oil and gas operator, said yesterday it had suspended chief executive Henry Cameron.
The company also said it had appointed its solicitor Jones Day and accountant Ernst & Young to investigate its property dealings in Russia.
The company said Mr Cameron, a former senior partner at a law firm in Aberdeen, had been suspended from all his executive duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
A spokesman said Sibir needed to have Mr Cameron, who lives and works in Moscow, step back to make sure due process was carried out.
Mr Cameron, 69, founded and was senior partner of law firm Peterkins in the Granite City before devoting his full attention to the oil industry.
The firm had clients involved with the former Soviet Union, which enabled Mr Cameron to gain a knowledge of doing business in Russia.
Sibir said the investigation would cover actual and proposed real estate dealings with any of major shareholder Chalva Tchigirinski’s interests and any other transactions between a Tchigirinski interest and Sibir during 2008.
The company added that Mr Cameron would continue, despite being suspended from other executive duties, to assist Sibir on a continuing basis to recover all monies owed by any Tchigirinski interest to Sibir.
It also said its deputy chief executive Stuard Detmer had taken over as acting chief executive from Mr Cameron with immediate effect.
Sibir came under heavy fire from minority shareholders last year when it announced plans to buy property assets from Mr Tchigirinski to help him avoid margin calls on debts and preserve Sibir’s shareholder structure.
Mr Cameron said at the time that difficult times called for uncomfortable decisions, adding “doing business in Russia has never been for the faint-hearted”.
This year Sibir reversed most of the transactions and said it was seeking to recoup around £81million by scrapping smaller deals to buy distressed real estate from Mr Tchigirinski.
Then last week Sibir said it had discovered it was owed almost £230million by Mr Tchigirinski, almost triple the amount previously announced.
Trading in Sibir shares in London was then suspended as the board said it would assess the effect of the amount owed and its impact on its finances.
Sibir owns oil fields in western Siberia and is a 50/50 partner with Shell in other oil fields in the region, with production attributable to Sibir currently more than 81,000 barrels per day.
It also has a stake in a refinery in Moscow, owns a network of 69 petrol service stations in the city, and has an interest in a further 64 service stations and 13 oil products distribution terminals in the Moscow area.