Australia’s Sticky Plastic Money Trail

Australia’s Sticky Plastic Money Trail

Do Not Pass Go, Go Directly to Jail. Photo from Sydney Mornng Herald

Reserve Bank of Australia subsidiary allegedly paid bribes in at least 21 countries

The Australian government’s efforts to contain the regional political fallout from the country’s first big foreign bribery trial has boomeranged, with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demanding to know why his name has been mentioned in an unusual blanket suppression order issued by the judge who will hear the case.

As Asia Sentinel reported on July 30, the case is also resonating in Malaysia, where the names of the current prime minister, Najib Razak, and his two predecessors, Abdullah Badawi and Mahathir Mohammad, are listed in the court order. In a third country, Vietnam, the names of top Communist Party figures are also listed. (See: Australia ‘Gags’ a Massive Banknote Scandal)

The suppression order, which itself is not supposed to be mentioned by the Australian media partly on grounds of “national security” and preserving key international relationships, was obtained and published on July 29 by Wikileaks. The case, involving two Reserve Bank of Australia subsidiaries, Note Printing Australia and former subsidiary Securency, has since been given wide coverage overseas and has leaked back into Australia despite authorities’ efforts to keep it bottled up.

Beyond those three countries, in committal hearings a Securency document listed agents in 17 countries: Bangladesh, India, Angola, Botswana, Dubai, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, China, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria and Chile. In other testimony, the names of Chinese central bankers and Nepalese officials have emerged, along with a long list of individuals connected to the case.

“I haven’t seen a country which involves an agent where they [Securency] did not commit bribery,” Australian Federal Police agent Rohan Pike told the court.

The order contains the names of the seven accused, all former executives Note Printing Australia Securency who were allegedly involved in bribing foreign officials to secure sales for Australia’s technology to make hard-wearing and relatively counterfeit-proof polymer bank notes.

In addition it lists local fixers as well as the political leaders and officials in the three Asian countries. The explosive case involves not only widespread bribery but the purchase of the services of prostitutes for government leaders, bankers and others.

As well as Indonesia’s Yudhoyono, his predecessor as president in 2001-2004, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and her minister for state-owned enterprises, Laksamana Sukardi, are listed. On Thursday, Yudhoyono was quoted by Jakarta media as saying: “I ask that Australia issue a statement that both [former president] Megawati [Sukarnoputri]] and my names are unstained, and so they do not defame other Indonesian officials. We want to hear directly from Australia.”

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