Aussie firm 'bribed' SEA officials
Tue, May 25, 2010

AN AUSTRALIAN banknote firm partially owned by the country's central bank used agents who were willing to pay bribes and supply prostitutes to foreign officials - allegedly including those in South-east Asia - to win supply contracts, reports said yesterday.

Police did not specify the countries involved but they are believed to include Malaysia, Vietnam and Nigeria.

Securency International, which produces polymer banknotes, is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police over whether its agents paid kickbacks to foreign government officials.

"We treat foreign bribe matters extremely seriously," said a police spokesman, adding that she was unable to discuss ongoing investigations.

The latest allegations come from an unnamed witness in the police probe, a former employee of Securency, who told journalists that he kept a diary of instances of apparent misconduct.

On one occasion in 2007, a middleman hired by Securency told him he was going to bribe a central-bank governor from an unnamed Asian country.

The witness has handed over to investigators his diary in which he recorded the middleman as telling him the "governor would be very happy if the commission (kickback) was increased".

The witness said that the following year, a colleague told him the company paid very high commissions to middlemen in Nigeria to ensure a contract to produce the country's polymer banknotes.

In another incident, a senior Securency manager told him to arrange a female Asian "bodyguard", understood to be a prostitute, for the deputy governor of a foreign central bank on his next visit to Melbourne.

"He was suggesting I might like to procure a prostitute for one of the central- bank officials on his visit to Melbourne," the witness told ABC Television's Four Corners programme.

The witness claimed he did not act on the request, though he believed other employees had arranged hookers for officials.

In another 2008 diary entry, the witness recorded that a consultant employed in Asia by Austrade - Australia's overseas trade agency - told him that to win contracts, Securency needed to hire someone to bribe officials or "to pass white envelopes for you".

Securency is half-owned by the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

Malaysia's opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, told Four Corners the alleged corruption was "difficult to comprehend".

"How could Securency allow...huge bribes in the name of commissions?" Anwar said.

Securency, which itself referred the bribery allegations to the Australian police when they surfaced last May, made no comment on the latest claims.

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