Securency, the Australian Company that bribed Soludo has a history of graft; Bribe paid through named intermediary
Contrary to the former governor of Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo’s claim that “a monopoly supplier of substrate such as Securency has no reason to bribe anyone to secure contracts”, it has emerged that the Company has a history of graft and of carefully paying selected agents to win contracts.
Impeccable sources have informed Elombah.com that “Under their business model, Securency offers politically connected foreign middlemen commissions that far exceed the industry standard of about 7 per cent, if they are successful in convincing politicians and central banks to switch from paper to polymer currency”.
Soludo asserted that a company like Securency that enjoys monopoly would not pay bribe to secure contract in Nigeria. “Who are Securency’s competitors for the Nigerian contract and why would the bribe be necessary”? He queried.
Nigerian authorities, PDP stalwarts and many PDP governorship aspirants in Anambra state except Chris Uba and his group has decided for expediency purposes to stick with Soludo as the PDP governorship candidate in Anambra State; the result is that the CBN and the EFCC has also decided to sweep the Naira Polymer scandal under the carpet.
Following our exclusive that Chukwuma Soludo was implicated in the Naira Polymer Bribery Scandal, the former CBN governor claimed; “Neither ‘The Age’ newspaper nor anyone has accused Soludo of demanding or receiving bribe from anyone”.
An Australian newspaper, The Age had revealed that two UK-based businessmen, Mike Harding and Benoy Berry, received tax-haven account payments from Securency. The two men allegedly convinced politicians and central bank governors in Africa on the need to migrate to polymer substrate.
But Soludo claimed that the Australian parliament had debated the matter and dismissed it, while the Australian police had been investigating the case since May 2009. No report, according to him, “had established wrong doing by Securency or anyone”.
The professor of economics also declared that a monopoly supplier of substrate such as Securency has no reason to bribe anyone to secure contracts. He challenged the company to name those allegedly involved in the giving and receiving of bribe and further insisted that the CBN has no hand in the award of the Naira Polymer contract.
Elombah.com can today reveal that these are all lies. We decided to do an in-depth investigation of the bribery scandal and the result is intriguing. We have facts to disprove these four (4) lies.
We can reveal that CBN under Soludo actually awarded the contract, that the former CBN governor was named as one of the officials that received bribes allegedly paid to Nigerian officials in order to secure contracts for the printing of polymer naira notes, that a former head of National Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU) acted as go-between for one Dr. Berry and Soludo’s CBN and how efforts were made to shred the evidence.
Today we present the first part of our findings.
The amazing thing, from our findings, is that Nigerian authorities are not the only people trying to overlook the scandal; the Australian government is also trying to suppress it.
Prominent Australian journalists wonder why both their government and the Opposition are as one on the scandal-racked Reserve Bank subsidiary Securency: “they don’t want to know about it”. Since May, The Age has exposed a string of allegations about the way the company goes about the business of selling its banknote polymer to other nations, some of which are notoriously corrupt.
The company is half-owned by the RBA (The Reserve Bank of Australia – their own Central Bank) and its board is chaired by an assistant governor. It is accused of multimillion-dollar bribery scandals going back several years. Australian Federal Police are investigating. Because of this on-going investigation, the Government and Reserve Bank have invoked this on-going investigation as reason for their almost total silence on the matter these past five months.
The reason for such silence is not far-fetched. Labor and the Coalition party of Australia, both of which could be embarrassed by closer public scrutiny of Securency’s dealings during their times in office, are jointly blocking a bid by a Senator to launch a Senate inquiry.
According to two Australian journalists, Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, Senior Reserve Bank of Australia officials (Equivalent to our Central Bank of Nigeria) approved the high-risk business practices that have put its bank-note firm at the centre of this international police probe.
According to the the two journalists, serving and former RBA board members were aware of a controversial commissions-for-contracts model used by its polymer bank note company Securency to strike deals in some of the world’s most corrupt countries.Any indictment of Securency is therefore an indictment of the Reserve Bank!
Soludo’s lie number one
Securency company, half-owned by Australia’s Reserve Bank (Central Bank) has engaged in questionable dealings in its pursuit of the “licence” to print money. This questionable business practice goes back many years.That is why it sounds so ill in the mouth of Chukwuma Soludo; that being almost a monopoly, they have no need to offer bribes. Soludo asserted that a company like Securency that enjoys monopoly would not pay bribe to secure contract in Nigeria. “Who are Securency’s competitors for the Nigerian contract and why would the bribe be necessary”? He queried. This is just one of Soludo’s many lies on this scandal (more of his lies later)
SECURENCY BUSINESS MODEL
Under the model, Securency offers politically connected foreign middlemen commissions that far exceed the industry standard of about 7 per cent, if they are successful in convincing politicians and central banks to switch from paper to polymer currency.The Accounting firm KPMG has been engaged by the RBA to review Securency’s business practices.
University of Sydney corruption expert Dr Chaikin told The Age Securency’s practice of promising agents larger-than-normal commissions if they succeeded in winning a contract ”effectively promoted corrupt behavior”.
The Age reported that more than $10 million in commissions were sent to offshore accounts in connection to the company’s dealings in Africa, where in 2006 it convinced Nigerian officials to switch the country’s paper banknotes to polymer.
The Age revealed that two well-connected UK-based businessmen, Mike Harding and Benoy Berry, received tax-haven account payments from Securency. Their role involved convincing central bank governors and politicians in Africa of the merits of polymer currency.
Securency has a history of dealing with corrupt businessmen as middlemen and agents. Securency has engaged commission agents previously implicated in corruption scandals and who received payments to tax-haven accounts in the Seychelles, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and other overseas locations.
One company active across Africa, Contec Global, which is owned by an Indian businessman and honorary consul to Burundi, Benoy Berry, has reaped lucrative payments from Securency as their agent. .In 2006, the Ugandan Government inspectorate investigated a contract process involving Contec Global and found that a Government minister appeared to be improperly lobbying for the company.
While it could not confirm an allegation raised in a report by Uganda’s intelligence services that the minister had received a hefty bribe, it did find that he had abused his office, “had a personal interest in the outcome of the procurement process and was fronting and or lobbying for Contec Global”.
In South Africa, Securency has had dealings with at least two very colorful businessmen. For a period, it was dealing with casino magnate Vivian Reddy, who has been embroiled in a corruption scandal involving his close friend and now president, Jacob Zuma.
In India, a company insider believes Securency made a political donation of $100,000 but listed it on the books as a “marketing expenses”. Securency has denied making payments to any political entity.
A company source also alleged that Securency was paying its agents commissions of 10 per cent or more, which are well above those paid by at least two other major currency companies, who told The Age their commissions, are between 2 and 6 per cent.
Securency says it pays commissions after “taking into account advice from other organizations (including Austrade) on the appropriate commission levels for each country”.
The risk inherent in using agents in corruption-prone countries has not escaped Securency’s attention; indeed, it has been a topic at company meetings and ethics workshops. Securency’s sister firm in Melbourne, Note Printing Australia, has taken a different approach.
NPA’s business development manager, Daniel Reid, told The Age that his firm believes that, rather than using agents, “it is a more responsible approach to deal directly with central banks”.
Soludo in his defense said “The CBN under him implemented some of the most stringent and cost effective procurement processes and ensured high value for money for the Central Bank”
Given Securency’s sordid record, Soludo should educate us how Securency’s business model would have passed his “stringent and cost effective procurement processes” and give value for money as opposed to a company like NPA.
Securency dealings in corruption-prone regions have not always gone without notice. In 2002, Vietnam’s central bank governor was overseeing the country’s project to switch to polymer notes. Securency stood to make millions out of the deal and engaged as its Vietnamese agent a firm called the Company for Development and Technology or CFTD. CFTD’s offices are close to the Ministry of Culture and Information, whose officials in 2006 targeted local journalists who had queried the central bank governor’s handling of the deal.
One of the issues revealed by journalists concerned the identity of a director of a CFTD company involved in the currency deal. He was the central bank governor’s son. According to newspaper reports in Vietnam, the state’s corruption watchdog found in 2007 that the involvement of the bank governor’s son in the deal in 2002, however brief, was “irregular in terms of the objectivity and transparency of the project and has an impact on the state bank governor’s reputation”.
A company source told The Age that commission payments made to CFTD from Securency run into the millions. While this may tally with any percentage deal agreed to between Securency and CFTD, the destination of some of the commission payments appears unusual.
A source close to the company says at least some of the payments were directed into an account in Switzerland. The country is one of the financial centers that the OECD said last month had “not substantially implemented” appropriate tax and secrecy standards, despite committing to do so.
The Vietnamese deal is consistent with a pattern of payments to shady intermediaries, many of them implicated in corruption and fraud inquiries, with the money often going into tax haven accounts. ”If this is happening, then it is against all the policies and procedures the RBA has put in place for the organisation,” RBA deputy governor Ric Battellino told The Age in May.
Well it has been happening for years, and the RBA was so concerned about potential corruption that in 2007 it ended the use of agents by another subsidiary, Note Printing Australia, after questions were asked about excessive commissions in Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Yet Securency continued the same practices unchecked in corruption-prone nations in Asia, South America and Africa. Securency has said all its agents were recommended or approved by Austrade and Australian embassies. The OECD this month criticised Australia’s failure to pursue foreign bribery – not a single prosecution has been launched in the decade since ratifying a global anti-bribery convention.
Securency’s Africa manager, Peter Chapman, recently resigned from the company while its South African agent, Donald McArthur, who is a convicted white-collar criminal, was recently sacked.
The AFP inquiry relates to possible breaches of Australia’s Criminal Code, which prohibits payments to foreign officials or government-controlled firms to secure preferential treatment. Securency has won lucrative contracts to supply polymer to almost 30 countries, often with the aid of Australian ministers, diplomats and trade officials.
In Vietnam, Austrade introduced Securency to the Company for Technology and Development, which senior Government sources believe is tied to Hanoi’s ministry of public security. Securency paid $5 million to CFTD director-general Anh Ngoc Luong and at least $7 million more to his company, some of which went to accounts in offshore tax havens.
As attention is focused on Securency and how it excels at doing business not only in Vietnam but in some of the most corruption-prone countries in the world.
Securency was established in 1996 and is jointly owned by the RBA and a British private equity firm. It is chaired by RBA assistant governor Bob Rankin and its board has had several serving and former RBA officials.
Questions are asked as to why the Reserve Bank and a host of Australian politicians and government officials have given their backing to a company paying large commissions to several disreputable overseas middlemen, as well as doing some of its business in offshore tax havens known for their secrecy provisions?
To be Continued