Australia to probe corporate bribery claims

bribeThe Federal Opposition will relaunch a senate inquiry into corporate corruption after a new scandal involving two Australian companies and the presidents of the Republic of Congo and Sri Lanka.

Sam Dastyari, Labor Senator, said Australia’s anti-corporate crime regime needed an overhaul and that he would be inviting the CEOs of the companies involved to testify before a senate committee.

Mr Dastyari said the relaunched senate committee would examine the allegations detailed on 7.30 and in Fairfax Media involving the past overseas practices of two Australian companies — listed miner Sundance Resources and the Snowy Mountain Engineering Company

The allegations came after the Australian Federal Poilice [AFP] launched an investigation in March into claims gaming giant Tabcorp had bribed a company connected to the sister of Cambodia’s president to win a gaming licence.

A few weeks after that, the offshore arm of Australian construction giant Leighton Holdings was implicated in the alleged corruption of Iraq’s deputy prime minister and oil minister, as part of the global Unaoil bribery scandal.

The Perth based Sundance Resources said last night that it had launched an independent inquiry to examine claims — also being evaluated by the AFP — about valuable shares given by Sundance to the son of Congo President Denis Sassou Ngeusso, who later issued permits to Sundance for an iron ore mine.

Meanwhile the AFP have been investigating the Snowy Mountain Engineering Company for dealings aimed at winning a small number of contracts in Asia between 2006 and 2011.

Australian law standards ‘woefully inadequate’

Mr Dastyari said the aim of the committee would be to boost Australia’s response to corporate bribery allegations.

“We need a larger legislative response,” he said.

“When you look at what they have in the UK with the bribery act, when you look at what they have in the US with the foreign corrupt practices act and you compare that to the laws we have here as a nation, you realise the standard here is woefully inadaquate.”

Last night, emails obtained by 7.30 also revealed a former Sri Lankan manager of the Snowy Mountain Engineering company pushing to pay a kickback to win a Sri Lankan contract in June 2009.

The manager claimed a request had been made by an advisor to then cabinet minister Maithripala Siresena, who is now Sri Lanka’s President.

In a statement overnight, Mr Sirisena said he had “no knowledge of the incident” and requested further details to “ascertain the involvement of any of his office staff.

The president also said he would co-operate “in any investigation” in Australia and “will also instruct the relevant local authorities to investigate”.

The Australian company said it had referred to the AFP an internal inquiry that found a request for a political donation was made, but it was not paid.

The Federal Government said it had boosted the AFP’s funding to fight corporate bribery and was considering new laws in which companies who dob themselves in may avoid prosecution. (ABC)

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