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Bonuses for trade envoy in spy affair

Date

Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie

Elizabeth Masamune.

Elizabeth Masamune.

THE Australian trade envoy who had a secret affair with an Asian intelligence officer implicated in the Securency bribery scandal received annual bonuses for her role in helping the firm win Vietnam central bank contracts.

Former senior trade commissioner to Vietnam Elizabeth Masamune received a performance bonus from Austrade of up to 7 per cent of her annual salary during the period when the Reserve Bank subsidiary paid Vietnam spy colonel Anh Ngoc Luong to help it win banknote supply contracts.

An Austrade spokesman said Ms Masamune had received a bonus each year she was stationed in the Australian embassy in Hanoi between 1999 and 2002. During this period, Ms Masamune had a secret romantic relationship with Colonel Luong, whom federal police believe received up to $20 million in suspected bribes from Securency.

Ms Masamune's top-secret security clearance is under review by the Australian government after she failed to disclose her relationship with Colonel Luong. Under the protocol for Australian overseas officials with high-level security clearances, all "non-routine" contact with a foreign government representative should be reported to ASIO.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday heard details of an email sent by Ms Masamune to Securency executives in which she urged them to provide overseas travel for Vietnam's central bank deputy governor or risk losing business.

Police have questioned Ms Masamune and several other Austrade officials. No Austrade staff have been charged with an offence.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson has asked Austrade to search its records to discover all transactions involving its staff, Colonel Luong and any Australian company or entity. A spokesman for Mr Emerson said the minister had asked for the checks to be done in a way that did not interfere with or compromise the Australian Federal Police investigation into Securency.

Several prominent Australian companies either used or were encouraged by Austrade to use Colonel Luong and his Hanoi firm, CFTD, as agents in Vietnam between 1999 and 2009.

The Age has also learnt further details of an independent review of security procedures at Austrade conducted by retired Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade deputy secretary Alan Thomas earlier this year.

An Austrade spokesman said Dr Thomas had found Austrade's security policies to be "basic".

Dr Thomas made 24 recommendations to improve Austrade's ability to protect its overseas officials, its "security culture" and its vetting procedures. Austrade has accepted all Dr Thomas' recommendations.

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