|Aussie miner BHP confirms US corruption investigation over suspect Beijing Olympics activities
Loss-making Australian miner BHP Billiton said today it was cooperating with a US investigation into its multi-million-dollar sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics amid reports it used the event to engage in suspicious activities and deals involving Chinese officials.
BHP confirmed media reports that it had been questioned by the US Department of Justice about its financial support of the Beijing Games.
BHP’s first half earnings dived 58 percent. The chief executive Marius Kloppers also resigned. It has shelved projects and shut some mines. BHP is also planning to offload more assets.
Australia's Fairfax newspapers said suspicious transactions recorded as legitimate business deals have been uncovered so far.
Instead of using the Olympics affiliation to promote its products Fairfax said BHP ran a “behind-the-scenes campaign to improve relations with its most important clients – those who run China's state-owned steel-making firms.’’
Chinalco, Baosteel and the China Iron and Steel Association were reportedly among those wooed by BHP during the Olympics, which came at a time when the mining giant was being criticized in the media for high iron ore prices.
The charm offensive had come to the attention of the US Securities Exchange Commission for possible bribery of foreign officials to obtain a business advantage, the Australian Financial Review said.
Anglo-Australian BHP confirmed it had been “cooperating with the relevant authorities in an investigation into possible violations of anti-corruption laws.’’
“In response to comments in the media about BHP Billiton's sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, we believe our Olympics activities complied with all applicable law,’’ a spokeswoman told AFP.
“BHP Billiton is fully committed to operating with integrity and the Group's policies specifically prohibit engaging in bribery in all its forms.’’
Australian Federal Police also confirmed that they were involved in the investigation.
“The AFP has received a referral that relates to the Australian aspects of the US investigation, It would not be appropriate to comment any further on operational matters,'' it said.