BHP Billiton facing 'corruption' inquiry into Beijing Olympics

BHP Billiton faces the threat of a multimillion-dollar fine after American and Australian anti-corruption authorities began to investigate allegations that it provided inducements, hospitality and gifts to Chinese officials in the run-up to the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The FTSE 100 miner denied any wrongdoing in relation to the 2008 Games, which it sponsored, insisting it had complied with all "applicable law" and was co-operating with the authorities.

Its comments follow reports in the Australian press that the US Department of Justice and Australian Federal Police were scrutinising the activities of BHP around the Beijing Olympics.

The reports said the authorities were investigating whether BHP had obtained a "business advantage" by providing gifts and hospitality to Chinese government officials and executives from state-owned steel and mining companies through its Olympic sponsorship and hospitality programme.

BHP, which supplied the materials for gold, silver and bronze medals for the Olympics, insisted yesterday that it has done nothing wrong in relation to its multi-million-pound sponsorship of the Games.

"We believe our Olympics activities complied with all applicable law. BHP is fully committed to operating with integrity and the group's policies specifically prohibit engaging in bribery in all its forms," a BHP spokesman said.

"BHP has been co-operating with the relevant authorities in an investigation into possible violations of anti-corruption laws," he added. BHP declined to comment further.

The US Justice Department said it was conducting "law enforcement proceedings" involving BHP, while the Australian police confirmed they had been working with foreign counterparts and local regulators on Australian aspects of the US investigation.

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