Australia's long-running saga over allegations of bribery against companies involved in manufacturing the nation's plastic banknotes and marketing the technology overseas continues with a politician calling for a major investigation.
Australian Greens politician Adam Bandt said there needs to be a high-level independent investigation into the bribery allegations because of the companies' ownership by Australia's central bank, the Sydney-based Reserve Bank of Australia.
In July, the Canberra-based Australian Federal Police charged two companies — Melbourne-based Securency International Pty. Ltd. and Melbourne-based Note Printing Australia Ltd. — and six Victorian individuals with bribing foreign public officials.
Securency is a joint venture established in 1996 between RBA and U.K.-based polymer film manufacturer Innovia Films Ltd. The venture manufactures and markets a biaxially oriented polypropylene polymer substrate used in Australian banknotes since 1988. It has sold the technology to 30 other countries.
Note Printing Australia, which is wholly owned by RBA, operates the printing works where Australia's banknotes are printed.
AFP alleged the companies and the individuals, who were senior executives with both firms, conspired with sales agents in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam to bribe officials to secure contracts to produce polymer banknotes for those countries. The individuals were released on bail after they appeared in court July 1. No trial date has been set.
Bandt, the Greens' sole representative in Federal Parliament's lower house, said a full independent inquiry was needed to “restore confidence in RBA” and determine what the federal government and RBA knew about the bribery allegations. The Greens party holds the balance of power in the upper house, the Senate.
“This scandal touches the key financial institution in this country and other arms of government. We need a full inquiry to clear the air,” Bandt said.
In November, RBA and Innovia announced plans to sell Securency, following what the companies claimed was “strong interest” from buyers. But there have been no further announcements on a possible sale since and the RBA spokeswoman would not comment on progress toward a sale.
Securency is a pioneer in producing plastic banknotes, which are more durable, cleaner and more difficult to fake than paper notes. Polymer notes are particularly popular in humid countries where paper tends to degrade faster.