The Canberra-based Australian Federal Police has confirmed it took part in a series of property raids relating to alleged bribery by foreign agents of a company established by the Sydney-based Reserve Bank of Australia to sell polymer banknote technology around the world.
An AFP spokesman confirmed six Melbourne properties were searched in what has been called Operation Rune. She said the investigation was a joint AFP and U.K. Serious Fraud Office exercise and two AFP investigators had assisted U.K. authorities in raids there.
As this investigation remains ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment further, she said.
An SFO spokesman told the news agency Australian Associated Press that 16 searches were conducted in three countries, including Spain, with two arrests made by British police.
The investigation is into allegations of potential foreign customers being bribed by intermediaries engaged by Mel- bourne-based Securency International Pty. Ltd., which tried to win contracts to produce polymer notes for overseas countries. AFP has been investigating since May 2009.
Securency, a joint venture established in 1996 between the RBA and U.K.-based polymer film manufacturer Innovia Films Ltd., makes and markets a biaxially oriented polypropylene substrate used in Australian banknotes since 1988. It has sold the technology to 30 other countries.
Last May, a whistle blower claimed bribes totaling up to A$45 million (US$36.6 million) were paid by Securency to sell polymer banknote technology globally.
Securency had sought the AFP investigation a year earlier, after an Australian newspaper raised allegations of kickbacks being paid by the firm's overseas agents to officials of foreign governments buying its substrate technology sold under the Guardian brand.
The company also engaged accountancy firm KPMG to examine its policies for employing international agents.
Securency is a pioneer in producing plastic banknotes, which are especially popular in hot, humid countries where paper tends to degrade much faster.