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FBI Investigating Bribery in WV Mine Disaster?

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By Jason Beahm on April 30, 2010 2:45 PM

This morning, it was reported that the FBI is now probing U.S. Officials and Massey Energy, allegedly investigating bribery of officials of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency in charge of inspections and mining regulation. While it is important to note that these are merely allegations, this represents a significant turn of events in the coal mine investigation. 

In a statement to NPR in reply to its report, Massey says it is not aware of the bribery allegations, and is fully cooperating with any investigations taking place. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has yet to respond to a request for comment. The Associated Press is now reporting: "The FBI has interviewed nearly two dozen current and former employees of Massey Energy in a criminal probe of the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men, a federal law enforcement official said Friday."

We have been following the lawsuits being filed against the Massey Upper Big Branch coal mine and Performance Coal. The first was filed on April 15 by the widow of one of the miners who lost their lives in the blast. The suit is for wrongful death and is based on the number of safety violations filed against the mine. The violations mounting up against Massey Energy may lend credence to the plaintiff's claims.

As we reported, in just the time period since the April 5 disaster, the AP says federal inspectors have found serious safety violations at Massey Energy operations in over 30 underground coal mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

In response to the NPR report about the FBI investigation, Massey released the following statement regarding the mine investigation:

Massey has no knowledge of criminal wrongdoing.

It is not uncommon that an accident of the size and scope of UBB would lead to a comprehensive investigation by relevant law enforcement agencies.

We are cooperating with all agencies that are investigating the tragedy at UBB. Massey does not and will not tolerate any improper or illegal conduct and will respond aggressively as circumstances warrant.

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