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    Aussies busted for bribing in note printing contracts

    Arrests in Aussie currency scandal



    NICK MCKENZIE AND RICHARD BAKER Last updated 13:10 01/07/2011









    Police have charged two Reserve Bank of Australia currency firms, Securency and Note Printing Australia, along with several of the company's senior managers with paying massive bribes to foreign officials in order to win banknote supply contracts.
    In a series of dawn raids, Australian Federal Police agents swooped on houses across Melbourne, arresting six former senior executives of Securency and Note Printing Australia, companies which are respectively half and fully owned and overseen by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
    Overseas law enforcement agencies also swooped on suspects in Malaysia, arresting two people.
    The arrests and charges mark a major milestone in Australia's biggest bribery scandal and are the first time foreign bribery laws have been used in the nation's history.
    A federal police statement released this morning said: "The AFP will allege that during the period 1999-2005, senior managers from Securency and NPA utilised international sales agents to bribe foreign public officials in order to secure banknote contracts."
    The decision to charge not only individuals but both companies with corruption offences is a huge blow to the Reserve Bank and will damage Australia's reputation.
    The six men arrested are due to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court and are facing up to 10 years' jail each over allegations they had various roles in a scheme involving the payment of multimillion dollar kickbacks to high-ranking officials in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
    One of the men allegedly bribed in Vietnam is the country's now former central bank governor, Le Duc Thuy, who is currently a leading communist party official.
    The federal government is believed to be deeply concerned by the scandal, given its potential to damage the nation's international relations and erode confidence in the pillar of Australia's financial system, the RBA.
    The criminal charges relate to bribes allegedly paid between 1999 and 2005, although the AFP is still investigating multimillion dollar kickbacks allegedly paid between 2005 and 2010.
    Note Printing Australia's board of directors during the period covered by today's charges were all serving and former senior RBA officials, including former RBA deputy governor Graeme Thompson.
    Mr Thompson was also chairman of Securency at the time of the alleged bribery, sitting on the polymer banknote maker's board with three other RBA appointees. A company can be convicted of bribery if it is proven that its "mind and will" was directed towards the alleged criminal conduct.

    If the Reserve Bank companies are convicted, it will raise serious questions about whether the RBA appointees on their boards failed in their corporate duties to properly oversee them.
    It will also raise questions about the handling of the affair by RBA Governor Glenn Stevens, who has resisted calls to investigate the two boards' conduct and who late last year said he knew of no evidence that any of the RBA appointees on their boards had done anything wrong.
    The individuals charged in connection with the alleged bribery of foreign officials are Securency chief executive (1996-2010) Myles Curtis, NPA chief executive (1994- 2004) John Leckenby, the chief financial officers of both companies, and a senior sales executives from each firm.
    They are alleged to have played a role in a bribery scheme that involved millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks paid by the RBA firms to senior foreign politicians and officials across Asia.
    The AFP's international investigation, which includes a taskforce from Britain's Serious Fraud Office, is continuing to investigate alleged bribery in Africa and more arrests are expected.
    The men charged in Australia, all from Victoria, will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today.
    The charges against the individuals, contrary to sections 11.5(1) and 70.2(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995, carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of A$1.1 million.
    The charges against the companies carry a maximum fine of A$330,000 per offence. The charges are a result of former senior managers within the companies who, allegedly at that time, represented the "mind and will" of the companies.
    It will also be alleged that money paid in bribes originated from the companies and that the companies therefore received a resulting benefit in the form of banknote contracts.
    - BusinessDay.com.au
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    Mid
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    Corruption a costly hurdle for hi-tech notes
    Adam Shand
    October 08, 2012


    Bribery is standard procedure in the international banknote industry, says former CSIRO scientist David Solomon.

    Picture: Stuart McEvoy

    THE father of Australia's polymer banknote industry claims the Reserve Bank could never create a sustainable business in exporting plastic money because it was competing in an industry rife with corruption.

    David Solomon, a former CSIRO scientist who helped create the world's first plastic notes in 1988, said that RBA subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia were unable to compete with foreign, privately owned companies that dominated the banknote industry.

    "In Asia, they are seeking business in markets where bribery of public officials to win contracts is standard operating procedure," Professor Solomon said. "Our companies and executives are prohibited by Australian law from being involved in that."

    In winning contracts in Europe and North America, the Reserve Bank had been up against entrenched players from Switzerland and Italy, which had fought to keep central banks buying paper currency.

    NPA and sister company Securency, which is half-owned by the Reserve Bank, have been charged with bribing foreign officials to win contracts for polymer banknotes. Former executives from NPA and Securency have also been charged.

    "We thought this would be a great high-technology manufacturing industry for Australia. We never thought it would be so difficult to break into overseas markets as it has been," Professor Solomon said.

    His team worked for 20 years to develop the polymer notes after a successful counterfeiting of the paper $10 note in 1966. The result was a technical triumph for Australia, with the new currency almost impossible to counterfeit. But it has proved a mistake for the bank to try to build an export business.

    "Polymer notes are great for central banks. They last much longer than paper so you don't need to print as many, which is no good if you're trying to build a note-printing business," he said.

    The Reserve Bank's 2012 annual report shows that last year NPA delivered 129.1 million banknotes for Australia and 139.3m banknotes to other countries including Chile, Brunei and Papua New Guinea. NPA also produced 1.8m passports for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

    The bribery scandal that has engulfed Securency and NPA has further hampered the ability to win overseas contracts.

    As foreign revenue has fallen, the Reserve Bank has been forced to subsidise its ailing subsidiaries by increasing the price it pays for Australian banknotes, The Australian revealed last month.

    The Reserve Bank now pays more than 34c for each note, making our currency one of the most expensive in the world.

    The price has nearly tripled in five years, calling into question if production of up to 200m notes a year should remain onshore. Singapore is understood to pay about 10c for its polymer banknotes, while the US pays about 10c each for its paper currency.

    theaustralian.com.au

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