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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Corruption inquiries into OZ Minerals to open again

Corruption inquiries into OZ Minerals to open again

Federal police in Australia are to reopen corruption inquiries into the Australian mining company OZ Minerals after criticism that it did not investigate thoroughly allegations of bribery in Cambodia.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and De­­­­velopment (OECD) reported in Oc­­tober that it was “seriously concerned’’ about “extremely low’’ enforcement of anti-foreign bribery laws in Australia.

The leader of the special references unit of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said last week it intends to review what it called “a joint-venture buyout case”; media sources in Australia said they had confirmed this referred to OZ Minerals.

In 2011, it was alleged that OZ Minerals paid more than $1 million to three women on the board of its Cambodian joint-venture partner, Shin Ha, when it bought the company in 2009.

The women were reportedly closely related to Cambodian government officials, some of whom worked in the mining ministry.

The director-general for Electricite du Cambodge, Keo Rattanak, said at the time that no ministry officials had received any payments and that the ministry had observed the law.

According to the OECD report, the Australian police “did not inquire into key matters that could have corroborated the allegations.” The report also said the case “concretely illustrates’’ concerns that “the AFP may have closed… cases before thoroughly investigating the allegations’’.

Government officials in Cambodia are not allowed to have business interests and must declare their assets. This requirement does not extend to their relatives.

Calls yesterday to ministries in Phnom Penh proved fruitless, with phones turned off or left to ring unanswered.

Cambodia’s corruption has been described as “systemic”, and the country ranks at 157 out of 176 countries for the scale of corruption, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rupert Winchester at rupert.winchester@phnompenhpost.com

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