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Niko Resources pleads guilty to bribery in Canada

Calgary-based oil and gas explorer Niko Resources has pleaded guilty to bribery in only the second case of its kind in Canada

AN ALBERTA judge fined the company C$9.5 million ($9.7 million) under Canadian anti-bribery statutes.

Niko admitted it offered a Bangladeshi official gifts worth C$190,000 in exchange for favourable compensation treatment related to a blowout and explosion of a gas well in Bangladesh in 2005. Niko provided the country's energy minister with a luxury vehicle and paid non-business expenses for trips to New York and Chicago, it said in a statement on its web site.

“What happened was wrong. We acknowledge this. We accept responsibility and we appreciate the seriousness of the actions,” said Niko chairman Ed Sampson.

Under the Corruption of Foreign Officials Act, it is illegal for Canadian firms to bribe foreign officials in Canada, but the Niko case was a precedent because it involved bribes paid in Bangladesh through an operating subsidiary. It was only the second conviction under the statute, but Toronto law firm Bennett Jones says Niko is only the first of many more cases to come to light in the coming months.

In January, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it has more than 23 active investigations being conducted by a special anti-corruption unit. It has the power to gather evidence and execute warrants overseas and is seen as a symbol of Canadian resolve to stamp out illegal dealings.

As part of its sentence, Niko will be subject to a three-year probation consisting of audits to ensure compliance with the court ruling. In a sign of contrition, Niko said it has adopted a full anti-corruption compliance programme, consisting of staff training and renewed due-diligence measures including compliance monitoring.

Bennett Jones says such programs are "important tools" for companies to weed out and prevent illegal activity. “The conviction of Niko for conduct occurring primarily in another country reinforces the need for Canadian companies to implement adequate screening and compliance measures when doing business internationally, particularly in connection with their dealings with foreign governments.”

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