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Bribes in Australian banknote scandal

SYDNEY, May 24 – An Australian banknote firm part-owned by the country\’s central bank used agents who were willing to pay bribes and supply prostitutes to foreign officials to win supply contracts, reports said Monday.

Securency International, which produces polymer banknotes, is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police over whether its agents paid kickbacks to foreign government officials.

Police did not specify the countries involved but they are believed to include Nigeria, Malaysia and Vietnam.

"We treat foreign bribe matters extremely seriously," a police spokeswoman told AFP, adding that she was unable to discuss ongoing investigations.

The latest allegations come from an unnamed witness to the police probe, a former employee of Securency, who told journalists he kept a diary of instances of apparent misconduct.

On one occasion in 2007, a middleman hired by Securency told him he was going to bribe a central bank governor from an unnamed Asian country.

The following year the witness says a Securency colleague told him the company paid very high commissions to middlemen in Nigeria to ensure a contract to produce the country\’s polymer banknotes.

In another incident, a senior Securency manager told him to organise a female Asian "bodyguard", understood as a prostitute, for the deputy governor of a foreign central bank next time he visited Melbourne.

"He was suggesting I might like to procure a prostitute for one of the central bank officials on his visit to Melbourne," the witness told ABC Television\’s Four Corners programme.

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Securency is half-owned by the central Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

Malaysia\’s opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim told Four Corners the alleged corruption was "difficult for me to comprehend".

"How could Securency allow … huge bribes in the name of commissions?" Ibrahim said.

Securency, which itself referred the bribery allegations to Australian police when they surfaced in May 2009, made no comment on the latest claims.

The RBA also declined to comment.

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