SYDNEY - An Australian court last month issued a gag order on a highly sensitive bribery case which names serving and former leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The court order, published by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks yesterday, was described by News Limited's news.com.au as "explosive".
"The whistle-blower website has published an explosive Victorian Supreme Court suppression order, concerning a corruption case that involves former and current leaders of Asian nations," news.com.au reported.
According to the Australian website, the gag order banned the release of information to prevent damage to Australia's international relations and to avoid damaging the reputations of people who were not facing criminal charges in the case.
The order also reportedly warns that publishing details of the case may put Australia's national security at risk.
The political leaders are not accused in the gag order of any wrongdoing.
They have been named in a criminal case involving alleged bribery by Australian executives of officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam to secure currency printing contracts.
The June 19 gag order bans publication in Australia of any information about the case to "prevent damage to Australia's international relations", according to a report by ABC News.
The order was issued by the Supreme Court in the state of Victoria.
It prevents not only details of the case being reported but also reporting of the order itself.
"The WikiLeaks website has published details of a suppression order granted last month banning Australian media from reporting details of a corruption case involving international leaders and their relatives," ABC News reported.
"The website said the case relates to the 'largest high-level corruption case in Australia and the region'."
The leaders are named in the gag order, which appears on the WikiLeaks website.
The names were not mentioned in Australian media reports but have appeared in Malaysian and other foreign media.
ABC News referred to a statement by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian, who accused Canberra of covering up a scandal which could embarrass the federal government.
"This is not simply a question of the Australian government failing to give this international corruption case the public scrutiny it is due," he was quoted as saying.
"(Australia's) Foreign Minister Julie Bishop must explain why she is threatening every Australian with imprisonment in an attempt to cover up an embarrassing corruption scandal involving the Australian government."
Mr Assange was reported as saying that the public is entitled to learn details of the case, which involves bribery charges against Australian officials employed by companies owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
As The Straits Times has previously reported, Australia's Reserve Bank has been embroiled in a scandal over bribes allegedly paid by its officials to win lucrative deals in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
At least nine officials in Australia have been charged, while the authorities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have arrested and investigated several officials accused of taking bribes.
In a statement reported by ABC News, Mr Assange said Australia was using "national security" as an excuse to avoid exposing details of the case.
He told Fairfax Media it was the first such gag order by an Australian court since 1995, when the government sought to prevent publication of details of a joint United States-Australian espionage operation to bug a new Chinese embassy in Canberra
This article was first published on July 31, 2014.
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