Banknotes and bribes: more arrests to come

2/7/110 nhận xét

[AGE] AUSTRALIA'S first foreign bribery prosecution will accuse two Reserve Bank currency firms and six of their former senior managers of funnelling multimillion-dollar bribes to government officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam to win banknote deals.

Police in Australia, Asia and Europe are preparing to lay further criminal charges and expose corrupt foreign politicians after yesterday laying bribery charges against Securency and Note Printing Australia - plastic banknote design and printing firms that are respectively half and fully owned and overseen by the RBA.

An international corruption taskforce led by the Australian Federal Police is still working to uncover up to a further $25 million in suspected bribes paid by the RBA firms across Asia and Africa from 1999 up until 18 months ago.

The Reserve Bank scandal.

The AFP inquiry began after a report by The Age in May 2009 revealing Securency's payments to shady middlemen.

Greens leader Bob Brown has called for the nation's corporate watchdog to examine the conduct of the former boards of both companies - which include former RBA bosses and several corporate heavyweights - while Austrade, the federal government's trade agency, is likely to come under scrutiny over its involvement.

Those charged yesterday with bribery offences that carry penalties of up to 10 years' jail include former Securency chief executive Myles Curtis and former Note Printing Australia chief executive John Leckenby.

The charges relate to up to $10 million in bribes allegedly paid between 1999 and 2005.

Former Malaysian central bank assistant governor Mohamad Daud Dol Moin is facing up to 20 years' jail after he was charged yesterday for taking kickbacks from the RBA firms' middleman, arms dealer Abdul Kayum, in Kuala Lumpur in late 2004 and early 2005.

Federal Police Commander Chris McDevitt described the charges as historic and warned that more arrests would be made. He stressed that the case should send ''a very clear message to corporate Australia'' about avoiding bribery overseas.

Commander McDevitt said the charging of the companies was based on allegations that the firms' ''mind and will'' was directed towards bribery and the firms corruptly obtained contracts.

RBA governor Glenn Stevens yesterday expressed regret at the central bank's failure to detect the allegedly corrupt practices at its subsidiaries. ''The Reserve Bank deeply regrets that the governance arrangements and processes in the companies at that time were not able to prevent or detect the alleged behaviour that has led to today's charges,'' he said.

Curtis, Securency's chief executive from 1996 to 2010, is facing three conspiracy to bribe charges in relation to deals done in Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Leckenby, NPA chief from 1994 to 2004, is facing two charges in relation to alleged kickbacks in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Former Securency chief financial officer Mitchell Anderson is facing two counts of bribery. Those facing a single charge are former NPA chief financial officer Peter Hutchinson, former Securency Asian sales chief Ron Marchant and former NPA sales manager Barry Brady.

Those named in court documents as co-conspirators, but who are not yet charged, are former NPA sales executive Christian Boillot, Securency's international marketing boss, Hugh Brown, and its Asian middlemen Radius Christanto and Abdul Kayum.

Between 1999 and 2005, both RBA firms were chaired by former Reserve deputy governor Graeme Thompson, who is also a former chief of corporate watchdog, APRA.

Commander McDevitt said there was no evidence to suggest individual board members were aware of or involved in the alleged bribes. He would not be drawn on whether the directors of Securency and NPA had appropriately fulfilled their duties to supervise the companies. The directors sitting beneath Mr Thompson on the NPA board during this period were former RBA assistant governor Leslie Austin, corporate heavyweight and federal government adviser Dick Warburton, who is also a former RBA board member, and former Liberal Party treasurer Mark Bethwaite.

Mr Thompson, Mr Austin - who resigned from the board just last month - and decorated British businessman Bill Lowther are among the directors who oversaw Securency in the period of the alleged offences.

The alleged kickback recipients include:
  • Former Indonesian central bank currency chief Herman Joseph Susmanto and his deputy, Mardiyo, who allegedly received from Securency and NPA a large cut of the $US4.9 million the firms funnelled via their Jakarta middleman, Radius Christanto.

  • Former Vietnam State Bank governor Le Duc Thuy, who remains one of his country's most powerful officials and whom Securency allegedly bribed in 2003 by paying for his son's fees at Durham University in Britain.

  • Several senior Malaysian officials, who allegedly received kickbacks from Securency and NPA via some of the $4.2 million the RBA firms paid Mr Kayum.

The use of overseas middlemen by Securency and NPA and the decision to pay them huge commissions into offshore accounts was approved by both company boards. Last November, Mr Stevens told a parliamentary committee he had seen no evidence that ''the directors that we appointed or the chairman that we appointed have acted improperly at any time''.

Mr Stevens said yesterday the RBA had now stopped both firms from using overseas agents to win banknote supply and printing contracts with foreign central banks. It has made several changes to both companies' boards.

The scandal creates major headaches for the federal government, which has refused repeated calls for a broader inquiry into the role of government officials.

Austrade officials and consultants played a key role in creating and vetting several of the overseas middleman arrangements, which are now alleged to have involved corrupt payments.

The Federal Police inquiry, which started as a small probe in May 2009 and grew to an international investigation run in conjunction with Britain's Serious Fraud Office, was started as a direct result of revelations in The Age, a point acknowledged yesterday by Commander McDevitt.

Information uncovered by The Age has been used by police to further the investigation.

Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are believed to have reluctantly agreed to co-operate in the international probe, although Vietnam has refused to assist.

The six Victorians charged were released on bail and will reappear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in September. By Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker
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