No corruption evidence in Vietnam banknote scandal

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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung wants to monitor case progress in Australia


Bundles of polymer dong banknotes in Hanoi. The central government has reported to lawmakers that police have found no evidence of bribery in a high-profile international currency-printing scandal.

The Ministry of Public Security has yet to find evidence that an Australian currency-printing company bribed Vietnamese officials to win contracts here, according to a governmental report sent to lawmakers at the ongoing parliamentary session.

However, the report's findings are only preliminary and inconclusive.

The report also said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who chairs the Central Anti-Corruption Committee, had instructed the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme Procuracy to monitor the case progress in Australia and Switzerland.

Australian media reports have accused officials from the Reserve Bank of Australia's currency firm, Securency, of bribing Le Duc Thuy, then-governor of State Bank of Vietnam, by paying for his child to attend an exclusive British university.

The alleged bribery helped Securency land huge banknote supply contracts worth tens of millions of dollars in Vietnam between 2002 and 2009, Australia's The Age reported.

Le Duc Thuy, born in 1948 in the north-central province of Ha Tinh, was central bank governor from 1999 to 2007. In March 2008, Thuy was appointed as Chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Committee an agency in charge of supervising banking, securities and insurance activities.

On March 17, PM Dung signed a decision retiring Thuy from public service. The decision took effect as of May 1.

In a statement on July 7, then-foreign ministry's spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said Vietnam is willing to cooperate with Australian authorities in their investigation of the currency scandal.

British anti-corruption fighters have charged Bill Lowther, former deputy chairman of Securency, with bribing Vietnam's former central bank governor, The Age reported on September 17.

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"Lowther is the first Securency board member to face criminal charges out of the federal police-led global corruption inquiry into two RBA firms, Securency and Note Printing Australia," the paper wrote.

Australian Federal Police have already charged eight former senior executives with conspiring to pay multimillion-dollar bribes to officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam in return for bank-note printing contracts.

Lowther, who stood down as Securency's deputy chairman after he was arrested and questioned last October, was appointed to the company's board by the Reserve Bank's joint venture partner in Securency, the British firm Innovia.

The Reserve Bank owns half of Securency and all of Note Printing Australia.

Lowther has been accused by Britain's Serious Fraud Office of conspiring in 2003 to pay for the son of the then governor of Vietnam's state-owned bank to attend Durham University in England.

In return, it is alleged the then governor, Le Duc Thuy, gave a massive contract to Securency to switch Vietnam's notes from paper to polymer. His son, Le Duc Minh, has claimed his university fees were not paid for as a part of a corrupt arrangement, and that he never benefited from any bribery.

He told The Guardian newspaper: ''I believe that none of my school friends or lecturers at Durham ever thought that I looked like a rich boy at school.''

On October 25, local VnExpress news website reported that Vietnamese authorities found the funds used to pay for Minh's schooling did actually belong to Thuy, who had asked a partner to transfer the money to England to pay for his son's school fees.

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