BHP to pay $25 million in 2008 Beijing Olympics bribery probe

BHP to pay $25 million in 2008 Beijing Olympics bribery probe

BHP supplied the materials for gold, silver and bronze medals used in the 2008 Beijing Games.

World’s No.1 miner BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) (LON: BLT)(NYSE: BHP) said Thursday it will pay $25 million to settle charges that it violated a U.S. anti-bribery law by paying for dozens of foreign government officials to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

After years of investigating, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concluded that BHP violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as it sponsored the bill government officials to attend the sports event, while they were in position to help the company's business and regulatory endeavours.

The SEC said it found out that BHP invited 176 government officials and employees of state-owned enterprises to attend the Games at the company's expense, but it ended up paying for only 60 of them, as well as some spouses and others who attended along with such guests.

“BHP Billiton recognized that inviting government officials to the Olympics created a heightened risk of violating anti-corruption laws, yet the company failed to implement sufficient internal controls to address that heightened risk,” said the SEC in a statement.

As part of the settlement, BHP neither admitted nor denied the SEC's findings. However, the deal requires the company to report to the SEC on the operation of its FCPA and anti-corruption compliance program for a one-year period.

In a separate statement, BHP Billiton said it had no independent compliance function at the time of its sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. Instead, accountability for complying with the company's anti-corruption policies was vested in its operating business units.

In 2010, BHP revealed it was conducting its own internal investigation in response to inquiries from US authorities. The probe, said the company at the time, had uncovered evidence "regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials."

BHP supplied the materials for gold, silver and bronze medals used in the 2008 Beijing Games.

Image by Vivian Fung / Shutterstock.com