Australian police probe Sundance over Congo corruption allegations

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Sundance Resources said on Thursday Australian police are investigating allegations that the company may have bribed politicians in Congo Republic to win permits to pursue a major iron ore project.

Sundance said the allegations dated back to meetings held between 2006 and 2008, as reported by Fairfax Media, and had been mainly raised in a case last year where Perth geologist David Porter successfully sued Sundance for failing to pay him for helping the company obtain its mining permits.

The bribery allegations “were not tested by the court and should not necessarily be considered an independent and accurate portrayal of events,” Sundance said.

The company, which lost its entire board in 2010 in a plane crash in Congo, has appointed an independent party to examine the events that Fairfax Media referred to, including discussion of an issue of shares to members of the family of Congo’s president Sassou Nguesso.

“Sundance has been contacted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in regards to the allegations in the article and intends to co-operate fully with the AFP investigation,” the company said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

Sundance has yet to line up funding for its long delayed Mbalam-Nabeba iron ore mine, port and rail project.

The investigation is the latest in a string of probes by the Australian Federal Police into bribery allegations involving major Australian companies, including gambling company Tabcorp Holdings.

Australian law bars companies from offering foreign officials or their representatives gifts to induce them to make decisions tied to their official duties.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin