BHP Billiton follows Rio in facing bribery scandal

After fellow miner Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton is now embroiled in a corruption scandal. It said yesterday that it is being probed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for bribing foreign government officials at some of its terminated exploration projects.

In a stunning revelation, the Anglo Australian miner said in its quarterly exploration and development report yesterday that it has been under investigation by the SEC since August relating primarily to certain terminated minerals exploration projects.

Brisbane-based BHP said that following the SEC's investigation, it had conducted it own internal probe, which had uncovered evidence ''regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials.''

Other than saying that the violations did not take place in China, BHP declined to reveal which country's officials were bribed.

''However, we can confirm that the SEC's requests for information primarily relate to certain terminated minerals exploration projects and not any activity in China, BHP Billiton's marketing activities or the sale of any of the company's products,'' it said in a statement.

The US SEC has the right to launch a bribery investigation in the London and Sydney listed BHP, since the company's ADR's are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.