Canadian police probing Niko Bangladesh allegations
CALGARY, Alberta Jan 15 (Reuters) - Niko Resources Ltd (NKO.TO) said on Thursday the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have launched a formal investigation into allegations that the Canadian oil company or its Bangladesh subsidiary made improper payments to Bangladesh government officials.
"We don't have any specifics ... but we understand that the allegations relate to possible improper payments to public officials in Bangladesh either by Niko or our subsidiary over there," said Murray Hesje, chief financial officer for Calgary-based Niko, which operates mostly in India and Bangladesh. It has large discoveries offshore India and has exploration properties elsewhere in Asia and Africa.
"We deny that at any time we made any unlawful payment to any public official over there," Hesje said.
The company said the Canadian police have not given it any specifics on the allegations. The RCMP declined comment.
In December 2007, Bangladesh's Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) filed charges against former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia for failing to recover millions of dollars in compensation for environmental damage caused by a fire at a Niko drilling site in northeastern Bangladesh in 2005.
The ACC also filed a similar charge against former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Niko says it has cooperated with the commission and that no charges have been laid against the company in Bangladesh.
"They asked us for information and we cooperated," Hesje said. "The Canadian authorities thus far have not asked us for any information and if they do going forward we will cooperate with them."
Niko shares were down C$1.55 at C$46.88 at midday on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. ($1=$1.26 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Haggett in Calgary and Chakradhar Adusumilli in Bangalore; editing by Peter Galloway)
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