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Documents Question Practices of Australian Mining Giant BHP

In this undated hand out photo released by BHP Billiton Ltd, shows their iron ore depot in Port Headland, Australia, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - The head of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit says there are no complaints filed at the agency against Prime Minister Hun Sen, following a news report in Australia claiming BHP Billiton, a mining company, may have engaged in unfair practices and worked closely with the premier.

BHP Billiton is being investigated in Australia and the US for corruption both in Cambodia and China. According to the Australian newspaper The Age, BHP officials in Phnom Penh sought a meeting with Hun Sen in 2006 to “go to the next level and close the deal” as it sought exploration rights.

The paper was quoting from documents released under a freedom of information request, highlighting the mining corporation’s relationship with Cambodian officials as it sought a bauxite mining deal in 2006. Hun Sen and BHP Billiton officials signed a deal in September 2006, for a joint venture with Mitsubishi to explore for bauxite.

Om Yentieng, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, told VOA Khmer he was unaware of The Age’s report. But he said there were no corruption complaints filed in Cambodia on the matter.

Preap Kol, who leads the Cambodian office for Transparency International, said the Cambodian government has granted licenses to mining companies like BHP Billiton, but such deals are not done transparently.

“The licenses issued from the government to mine exploration companies do not call for a bid or announcements to the public,” he said.