Australia concealed KL banknote bribes, says report

(The Malaysian Insider) – Senior Australian central bank officials helped conceal evidence of corruption at two bank subsidiaries accused of bribery to help win overseas contracts to print banknotes, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper alleged today.

Top Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) officials suppressed damaging information between 2007 and 2008 about payment of secret commissions to middlemen hired by Reserve firms Note Printing Australia (NPA) and Securency to win bank note contracts in Malaysia and Nepal, the report said.

The RBA has a half-share in Securency International, which is being investigated by Australian police, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office and Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission, prompting calls from some Australian lawmakers for a judicial investigation so far rejected by the government.

“The government will not be running a commentary on these matters while they are still under investigation by the appropriate authorities and there are court proceedings pending,” a spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

RBA Deputy Governor Ric Battellino, a former deputy governor, Graeme Thompson, and former NPA boss Chris Ogilvy were among officials who knew of the concerns, the Herald said.

Evidence of the cover-ups was contained in dozens of internal documents from the bank and the bank note firms, including many seized by police after executing search warrants, it said, without naming sources.

Police in July charged Note Printing Australia and Securency over alleged payments to officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam between 1999 and 2005 following a two-year inquiry.

The RBA and its partner in the Securency joint venture, Innovia Films, are looking for a buyer for the firm, and this year valued its half share at A$54 million (RM164.20 million).