Cambodian PM linked to BHP deal

A BHP Billiton mining deal being investigated for alleged corruption was overseen by Cambodian prime minister and strongman Hun Sen, diplomatic cables disclosed.

The miner’s terminated attempts to establish a bauxite mine in Cambodia and its hospitality program for Chinese officials at the 2008 Beijing Olympics are the subject of a foreign bribery investigation run by Australian Federal Police and the US Justice Department.

The SMH reported that ‘protected’ and ‘sensitive’ diplomatic cables reveal Sen’s close involvement in 2006 negotiations with BHP executives where he promised ‘a possible tax holiday’ and that he would give ‘BHP one million hectares of land’ weeks before signing an agreement.  

The cables, made available under freedom of information by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, show that in 2006, BHP took what Australian officials believed was an unusual step of asking them to approach Sen for a meeting to seal the deal. The cables have been considerably censored to protect Australia’s international relations and BHP’s commercial interests.

Sen has rejected reports suggesting BHP was involved in bribery in Cambodia.

BHP told the Herald it could not answer specific questions due to ongoing investigations but said it handed licenses for the bauxite project back to the Cambodian government in 2009.

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