Nick McKenzie et al, in The Age,24 August 2016,where the title is “Australian companies linked to bribe scandals in Sri Lanka and Congo”
Two Australian companies are embroiled in bribery scandals that reach into the offices of the presidents of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Congo, as the firms sought to secure multi-million dollar contracts. Coming in the wake of foreign bribery allegations implicating Tabcorp, Leighton Holdings and BHP Billiton, the revelations will put pressure on the Turnbull government to reform Australia’s failing anti-corruption framework.
Hard to please … Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso, left, pictured with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: AP
Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena. Photo: AP
A Fairfax Media and 7.30 investigation has uncovered internal documents from Perth-based listed mining company Sundance Resources that suggest it bribed the leader of the Republic of Congo as it sought presidential approval in 2007 for one of Africa’s most ambitious iron ore projects. The documents, now being evaluated by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), reveal a secret share deal worth millions of dollars was brokered with the son of Congo’s despotic president, Denis Sassou Nguesso. In return, the company allegedly secured the President’s backing for its project. Sundance has launched an internal inquiry into the claims.
A Fairfax Media investigation has separately uncovered evidence – which is the subject of a major AFP probe – involving the iconic Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC). The firm’s overseas staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million aid-funded sewerage project in Sri Lanka in 2011 and, in partnership with a Canadian company, a $2.2 million power plant project in Bangladesh in 2007.
Company emails also reveal Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and his adviser allegedly demanded a political “donation” to be paid by SMEC when Mr Sirisena was a cabinet minister. The emails show a plot to skim the money off a World Bank-funded dam project in 2009. In return, Mr Sirisena was to approve the awarding of the dam contract to SMEC, worth $1.82 million .
SMEC’s Sri Lankan manager, who was recently sacked, wrote in emails to two Australian colleagues that he wanted to “inform the minister/co-ordinating secretary” of the size of an alleged kickback to be paid and that he needed to “prioritise” certain payments to unnamed parties “since the signing of the contract would depend” on it.
SMEC has confirmed a “request for a political donation”, but insists an internal investigation found no donation was made and the firm “continues to fully cooperate with the AFP.”
Australia prides itself on being a clean place to do business, but revelations by Fairfax Media and others over a decade show that many companies agree to corrupt practices in developing countries. The government gave the AFP an extra $15 million in April to fight corporate bribery after Fairfax Media revealed the global Unaoil bribery scandal, which involved construction giant Leighton Holdings, and allegations that Tabcorp bribed the sister of Cambodia’s president.
ALSO SEE http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=150912