Niko fined C$9.5 illion for Bangladeshi bribes

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Niko Resources Ltd NKO.TO, a Canadian oil and gas producer operating in Asia, was fined C$9.5 million ($9.6 million) and given three years' probation after pleading guilty to charges that it bribed a Bangladeshi official.

It was only the second time a company has been found guilty under Section 3 of Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials.

The charges stemmed from providing a car worth C$191,000 and a C$5,000 trip to Canada and the United States to A.K.M. Mosharraf Hossain, a junior energy minister responsible for assessing compensation after Niko well blowout in the country in early 2005.

Hossain resigned in June 2005 after Bangladeshi media revealed Niko had given him a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Scott Brooker said the bribery “was an embarrassment to all Canadians” and “a dark stain on Calgary’s reputation” as he passed the sentence that had already been agreed to by prosecutors and the company.

He also put the company on probation for three years, imposing a number of conditions that compel the company to cooperate with Canadian and U.S. investigators and carry out audits to ensure it complies with the law.

“What happened was wrong. We acknowledge this. We accept responsibility, and we appreciate the seriousness of the actions,” Ed Sampson, Niko’s chief executive, said in a statement.

“As a result of these events, we have taken extensive steps in all aspects of our organization. One such step is the creation of the position of chief compliance officer, who reports directly to our board, to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Niko shares fell C$2.07, or 3.2 percent, to C$62.85 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday, their lowest level since May 2009.

The case was Her Majesty the Queen vs. Niko Resources Ltd. No case number has yet been assigned.

Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Rob Wilson