RCMP raid Calgary miner over bribery allegations – by Greg McArthur (Globe and Mail – August 29, 2011)

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The RCMP has raided the office of a Canadian mining company in Calgary alleging in an affidavit that the company funnelled bribes into the personal bank account of a small-town Mexican mayor to ensure protection from anti-mining protesters.

On July 20, a team of Mounties executed a search warrant on the office of Blackfire Exploration Ltd., a privately owned junior whose operations in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas have been embattled since 2009, when a vocal opponent of its barite mine was murdered in a drive-by shooting.

The company has not been charged with a crime and says it is co-operating fully with the RCMP investigation, which is part of a broader effort by the Mounties to enforce Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act – the law that forbids the payment of bribes abroad.

In a sworn statement in support of the search warrant application, Constable Terri Lynn Batycki alleges the company illegally paid a local mayor, Julio Cesar Velazquez Calderon, about $19,300 (CDN) “to keep the peace and prevent local members of the community from taking up arms against the mine.”

When the mayor’s requests became more exorbitant and sleazy – including demands for airline tickets and a “sexual night” with one-time Playboy model Niurka Marcos – the company complained to the state government that they were being extorted, Constable Batycki alleges.

In a statement, Blackfire said it never knowingly paid bribes to anyone. The company, which began mining in Mexico in 2008, explained that it was under the impression that the thousands of dollars it transferred were for the benefit of the citizens of the small town of Chicomuselo, destined for its fair and other public works.

“When we became aware that funds were possibly used for other purposes, we took immediate steps to stop payments…” the statement said. “We expressed our deep concern that contributions intended for the public were not being used accordingly.”

Relying on the company’s banking records, which were obtained through judicially approved production orders, as well as documents from Mexico, Constable Batycki alleges that Blackfire’s Mexican subsidiary regularly transferred payments, month-by-month, directly into Mayor Calderon’s personal bank account.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/rcmp-raid-calgary-miner-over-bribery-allegations/article2145226/

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