Senator Mac Harb denies using influence to push Niko Resources Ltd. oil in Bangladesh

Liberal senator denies using public influence to lobby for oil company
Source: The Canadian Press

OTTAWA -A Liberal senator denies allegations he used his public influence to lobby for a Calgary-based oil and gas company that has admitted to bribing a foreign official.

In a statement released Saturday, Sen. Mac Harb said he disclosed all information about his work with Niko Resources Ltd. to the Senate Ethics Officer.

Harb said he didn't use his position as a senator for personal gain or the benefit of Niko.

``This investigation has... caused me grave concern and I have co-operated fully with the authorities,'' Harb said.

``I am confident that there will be no finding of wrongdoing.''

The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that the RCMP is investigating Harb for criminal breach of trust, alleging he travelled to Bangladesh to lobby the country's government with a special passport used by federal officials. The RCMP were not immediately available for comment.

Niko said in a statement it retained Harb as a consultant in his personal capacity, not as a senator.

The senator was paid a total of $65,000 between September 2005 and July 2006, Niko said.

The matter was investigated by the authorities, the company said, and the Crown determined that no charges against Niko were warranted.

In a Calgary court on Friday, Niko Resources agreed to pay nearly $9.5 million as punishment for bribing a Bangladeshi government official in 2005.

The judge presiding over the case called the crime a ``dark stain'' on the heart of Canada's oilpatch.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Niko provided goods and services ``to induce officials to use their position to influence any acts or decisions'' of the Bangladeshi government.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Senators states that ``senators may not use their position to influence a decision of another person in order to further their own private interests, or those of their family members, or to improperly further another person's or entity's private interests.''

Using public office for personal gain is also prohibited under the Criminal Code.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said the allegations against Harb are further proof the senate needs major reform.

``You have a situation where criminals and people under police investigation are able to sit in the Upper Chamber,'' he said in an interview. ``They are unaccountable and unelected.''

A former college professor with a background in engineering, Harb was an Ottawa-area MP for nearly fifteen years and, prior to that, the deputy mayor of Ottawa.

``As a city councillor, a Member of Parliament and as a Senator, I have always put the public interest first,'' Harb said in the statement.

Harb was appointed to the senate in 2003 by then prime minister Jean Chretien.

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