It’s only taken the Australian Securities and Investment Commission three years to dig a hole deep enough to bury its head in. The Age must be wondering why it bothered outlaying time and resources on investigative journalism.
BIPARTISANSHIP is rare in Canberra these days, but the Government and Opposition are as one on the scandal-racked Reserve Bank subsidiary Securency: they don't want to know about it. Since May, The Age has exposed a string of allegations about the way the company goes about the business of selling its banknote polymer to other nations, some of which are notoriously corrupt.
FEDERAL police have referred to the corporate watchdog evidence of possible illegality by senior Reserve Bank officials and business figures in connection with the nation's worst bribery scandal.
The referral to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission marks a significant shift in the investigation of the Reserve firms Securency and Note Printing Australia, which allegedly paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to win foreign banknote contracts.
For the first time in three years - and after last year charging 10 former senior banknote executives with paying bribes - authorities are examining the conduct of several Reserve-appointed directors of NPA and Securency between 1998 and 2009.
It is understood federal police have gathered significant documentary evidence and witness statements that point to improper corporate behaviour and have sought legal advice about the material before referring it to ASIC. Those whose conduct is under scrutiny over possible illegality include:
A former deputy governor of the Reserve and former chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Graeme Thompson, who chaired NPA and Securency and who allegedly approved highly irregular company behaviour that fuelled bribery.
An assistant governor at the Reserve, Frank Campbell, who as NPA director was privy to information about company corruption and bribery in 2007 which he and his board did not refer to the police.
The managing director of NPA, Chris Ogilvy, who also sat on Securency's board and who was party to highly irregular corporate behaviour, including the payment of secret commissions via inflated contracts.
A former Reserve assistant governor, Les Austin, who was a director of Securency and NPA.
If ASIC pursues civil or criminal charges against any of the directors, they could face jail sentences or heavy fines.
Company directors have a legal obligation to act honestly and diligently, and if their recklessness is found to have contributed to bribery or other improper conduct, they can be charged.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission says it will not launch an investigation into bribery allegations against two companies linked to the Reserve Bank.
Seven former employees of polymer banknote companies Securency International and Note Printing Australia (NPA), and the companies themselves, have been charged in relation to bribes allegedly paid to foreign officials to win note-printing contracts overseas.
Securency is 50 per cent owned by the RBA, while NPA is wholly owned by the RBA.
ASIC says it looked for evidence of possible breaches of the Corporations Act in material supplied by the Australian Federal Police.
"In line with its normal practice, ASIC has reviewed this material from the AFP for possible directors’ duty breaches of the Corporations Act and has decided not to proceed to a formal investigation," the regulator said in a statement.
Millions of dollars were alleged to have been paid in bribes to officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam between 1999 and 2005 to secure contracts to produce bank notes for those nations.