Federal Politics

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Bribery scandal case gets witness


THE Australian Federal Police has secured a star witness to testify against former executives of allegedly corrupt Reserve Bank subsidiaries.

In a major breakthrough in Australia's first foreign bribery prosecution, the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday heard that Securency's former chief financial officer, David John Ellery, intends to plead guilty to two counts of bribery-related false accounting and give evidence at the committal hearings of several former colleagues next year.

Feature: A licence to print money

Mr Ellery is the ninth former executive from Securency and Note Printing Australia to be charged with bribery related offences and the first to indicate a guilty plea.

The Saturday Age can also reveal Radius Christanto, the Indonesian middleman engaged by the RBA firms, has been arrested in Singapore and federal police are seeking his extradition to Australia.


Evidence against Mr Christanto includes correspondence between him and executives from the RBA firms - obtained by The Age and given to the AFP - in which $US1.6 million in ''unofficial payments'' to ''our friends'' in Indonesia's central bank were discussed.

NPA, which is fully-owned and supervised by the Reserve Bank, and Securency, half-owned by the RBA, were also charged in July last year with allegedly bribing officials in Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal and Indonesia in order to secure banknote supply contracts.

The companies make and print Australia's unique plastic banknotes and export them to more than 30 countries.

An international police taskforce began investigating the companies after The Saturday Age in 2009 revealed their multimillion-dollar payments to tax haven bank accounts belonging to questionable middlemen in Asia and Africa.

The scandal has embroiled the leadership of the RBA, with senior central bank officials receiving explicit evidence of bribery back in 2007 but choosing to handle the matter internally rather than go to police.

Next year's committal hearings of the former banknote executives are expected to hear allegations that at least one former RBA board member and several other senior bank officials knew about corruption but sought to cover it up.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission earlier this year rejected a referral from the AFP to investigate Securency and NPA board members - including serving and former senior RBA officials - for breaches of the Corporations Act. ASIC provided no reason for its decision.

Commonwealth prosecutor David Sewell told Justice Paul Coghlan yesterday that Mr Ellery had consented to his indictment on two charges of false accounting relating to alleged bribery in Vietnam and Malaysia. Mr Sewell said Mr Ellery, who was also Securency's company secretary between 2003 and 2010, had agreed to a summons to appear before the Victorian Supreme Court on July 18.

Mr Sewell told the court that Mr Ellery, who did not appear yesterday, intended to plead guilty to the charges and hoped to be sentenced in time for him to be available to ''give evidence against the other accused'' at committal hearings scheduled across seven months next year.

Mr Ellery's intention to plead guilty and testify against his former colleagues represents an important breakthrough for the AFP taskforce working on Operation Rune, the codename given to the bribery probe.

A series of court orders has prevented the public from knowing other significant developments in the prosecution of Securency and NPA as corporate entities in recent months.

The Singapore High Court last month granted Mr Christanto bail on the condition $1.6 million surety be paid, he surrender his passport and report to police twice daily. The AFP application for his extradition is expected to be heard in a Singapore court later this year.

Court documents show Mr Christanto's lawyers claimed he had not ''the faintest idea'' he was wanted by Australian police when he was arrested last month.

His lawyers said he had about $19 million worth of property in Singapore and $10 million in local banks.

The RBA bribery scandal has been a major embarrassment for Australia, with high-ranking government officials and politicians in Asia and Africa alleged to have been bribed.