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BHP probed over 2.5 million dollar Cambodia payment: reports

Authorities in the United States are probing mining giant BHP Billiton over a 2.5 million US dollar payment related to an exploration project in Cambodia, reports said on Thursday.

The Australian newspaper and the Sydney Morning Herald both said possible corruption uncovered by BHP, which has refused to give details, had been linked to an abandoned bauxite exploration project in the impoverished country.

The Anglo-Australian miner on Wednesday said it had evidence of possible corruption involving “interaction” with government officials, related to a minerals exploration project which was terminated about a year ago.

It declined to reveal the location of the project, but said it was not in China, where four staff of rival miner Rio Tinto were jailed for bribery and commercial espionage last month.

The Australian said BHP has admitted paying 2.5 million US dollars to a community in Cambodia’s east, near the Vietnam border, but has denied a Cambodian government minister’s claim that it was “tea money”, or a bribe.

The company has said the money was put into a development fund investing in social welfare programmes, and that it paid one million US dollars to the government for bauxite exploration rights, according to the newspaper.

BHP declined to comment on the reports. On Wednesday, it said it had handed evidence to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and was also conducting an internal investigation.