The Central Bank has finally released details of the landmark prosecution that involved two of its subsidiary companies involved in bribing overseas officials for note-printing contracts.
Following a decision by the Supreme Court of Victoria this week, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is able to disclose that in late 2011, its subsidiaries – Note Printing Australia (NPA) and Securency – entered pleas of guilty to charges of conspiracy to bribe foreign officials in connection with banknote-related business.
The offences were committed over the period from December 1999 to September 2004.
The RBA and the companies were not permitted to disclose these pleas prior to today due to suppression orders, which have now been lifted. The orders were not sought by the RBA or the companies.
In a statement this week, the RBA said the boards of NPA and Securency decided to enter guilty pleas at the earliest possible time rather than to defend the charges, reflecting an acceptance of responsibility and genuine remorse.
“The decisions to plead guilty were based on material that became available to the boards after allegations about Securency had been referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and followed extensive legal advice. The decisions also took into account the public interest in avoiding what was expected to be a costly and lengthy court process,” the central bank said.
No evidence of knowledge or involvement by officers of the RBA, or the non-executive members of either board appointed by the RBA, has emerged in any of the relevant legal proceedings or otherwise.
“The Reserve Bank strongly condemns corrupt and unethical behaviour,” Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said.
“The RBA has been unable to talk about this matter publicly until today, although the guilty pleas were entered in 2011. The RBA accepts there were shortcomings in its oversight of these companies, and changes to controls and governance have been made to ensure that a situation like this cannot happen again.”
In 2011, the Reserve Bank Board commissioned a thorough external review of the RBA oversight of the companies. The RBA oversaw a comprehensive strengthening of governance arrangements and business practices in the two companies.
In early 2013, the RBA sold its interest in Securency, having ensured that all the compliance issues of which the RBA was aware had been addressed.
With the lifting of the suppression orders, the RBA is now also able to disclose that the companies paid substantial penalties as a result of the court proceedings.
NPA paid fines totalling $450,000 and a pecuniary penalty under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 of $1,856,710. Securency paid fines totalling $480,000 and a pecuniary penalty under the Proceeds of Crime Act of $19,809,772.
Since the companies entered their pleas, four former employees of Securency have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to bribe and/or false accounting. Charges against four former employees of NPA were permanently stayed on the basis that continued prosecution of these individuals would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
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