Envoy seduced by spy feared that her office was bugged
Feared her phone was being monitored ... Elizabeth Masamune. Photo: Jason South
A SENIOR Australian trade envoy who was seduced by a Vietnamese intelligence officer told police she feared her Hanoi offices were bugged.
Former senior Austrade commissioner to Hanoi Elizabeth Masamune said in her police statement in the committal of eight former Reserve Bank company executives on bribery charges that after receiving a call from a journalist she recalled "being concerned of the level of information which she had. I was also more concerned about whether my phone was being monitored."
But she said in her police statements and court testimony that she was not suspicious of other things she saw during her Vietnam posting between 1999 and 2002, including that her lover, Ministry of Public Security officer Colonel Anh Ngoc Luong, had visited the general secretary of the Communist Party's home on the secretary's birthday. Anh, who was contracted to act as an agent for the Reserve Bank of Australia's half-owned subisidiary company Securency, had hired the son of the State Bank of Vietnam's governor.
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
She believed the governor's son, Le Duc Minh, was hired by Anh near the beginning of 2002 to act as an agent for ANZ Bank in its attempt to sell ATM technology to Vietnam.
Anh had given her gifts including perfume and a television.
Securency was expected to pay for a delegation of Vietnamese government officials to visit Brazil and Mexico to view banknote technology at work.
In an email dated 28 August, 2000, from her to a Securency executive, she wrote that foreign suppliers were expected to pay for Vietnamese officials to travel overseas so they could see the technology. She wrote: "The reality of life is that if you do not, there are plenty of other competitors who will."
She said in court that the visit was for "due diligence" and was a legitimate expense.
She told the court that gift-giving was an important part of Vietnamese culture and "showed sincerity".
She said in her statement that she had donated some of Anh's gifts to charity, reimbursed Austrade for others, and told Anh "not to give me any more valuable gifts as I was a government official".
A Securency report from 2001 meetings with Ms Masamune, as quoted in her statement, said she had emphasised Anh's government and party connections including the prime minister and state bank governor, "so she feels that the vibes are good".
She said: "One of Anh's selling points as an agent was his connections because it was important in Vietnam to have connections in order to achieve results." She said she had only heard "rumours" that Anh was associated with the intelligence service. She said in her statement: "I was not influenced by Anh to seek or obtain favours on his behalf … I believe that professionally I conducted myself properly at all times."
She said she never heard "any hint of any kind of impropriety or corruption by State Bank of Vietnam officials or Securency employees."
The hearing continues.