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Niko reveals probe by Canadian authorities

The RCMP is looking into allegations that Calgary-based international energy company Niko Resources Ltd., or its subsidiary in Bangladesh, made improper payments to public officials in that South Asian country, a Niko executive says.

Niko had heard rumours a probe was under way and approached Canadian authorities to confirm whether that was the case, chief financial officer Murray Hesje said in an interview Thursday.

"They were simply willing to confirm to us that yes, there was an investigation underway and they were willing to name the country that was involved, being Bangladesh and provided no additional details to us," he said.

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Niko said it would co-operate fully with the corruption probe.

"They have never asked us for any information before. There are no outstanding requests from them for information, so all we're really doing is confirming what we had heard rumoured and that is that a formal investigation is under way," Mr. Hesje said.

"They may, of course, come to us and ask for information, but they haven't done so."

Last year, a Bangladeshi court charged former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and others with corruption over contracts awarded to Niko in 2001. Eight other people, including Hasina's political colleagues, former bureaucrats and a local Niko representative, were also charged.

An anti-corruption commission contends Bangladesh lost millions of dollars because of "uneven and illegal deals" that allowed Niko to explore for gas at the Tengratila field. The charges also involved the Feni gas field, which is managed by the company.

Bangladesh, a parliamentary democracy, has been run by a military-backed interim government for two years, when a state of emergency was declared following the deaths of more than 30 people in street protests demanding electoral reforms.

The interim government has launched a crackdown on corruption.

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Another former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was accused earlier of similar charges involving Niko.

At Niko, Mr. Hesje said the company always operates within both Canadian law and the laws of the countries in which it operates.

"We have a code of conduct ...We believe we behave ethically and are unaware of anything illegal that the company's been involved with," he said.

"We know very little at this point, but we did think it important that the market understand the stage it's at."

Niko has operations in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Madagascar, the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Indonesia and elsewhere.

In its latest financial report, the Calgary company posted a second-quarter loss of $24-million, compared with a $19.4-million loss a year earlier.

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