State bank ex-chief accused in banknote scam

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Vietnam's Government Inspectorate is yet to launch an investigation into accusations that a former state bank governor accepted bribes from an Australian firm in exchange for polymer banknote supply contracts, a senior state inspector has said.

"This case is complicated, having long steps to take and higher authorities have not permitted us to do it [the inspection]," Mai Quoc Binh, the Government Inspectorate's Deputy Chief told the Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspaper on Wednesday (January 26).

On Monday, an investigative report by Melbourne newspaper The Age accused the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) currency maker, Securency, of bribing Le Duc Thuy, Vietnam's former central bank governor, by paying for his child to attend an exclusive British university.

"The arrangement is one of several lucrative financial incentives the RBA firm allegedly funneled to Vietnamese officials in return for a deal that Vietnam prints its currency on Securency's plastic banknote material," the paper reported. "The alleged bribery helped Securency land huge banknote supply contracts in Vietnam between 2002 and 2009."

The paper said legal sources have confirmed that Securency funds were used to pay for the university education for Thuy's child.

Thuy, who currently serves as chairman of the National Finance Supervision Council, awarded Securency contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, the paper said.

"It is understood a secret Securency slush fund was used to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees for Mr. Thuy's child to attend the University of Durham," it said.

Senior Securency executives have privately denied having direct involvement in paying bribes, including university fees, The Age reported, citing legal sources.

Securency is embroiled in a long-running investigation into claims its agents offered bribes to officials in countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Nigeria to win contracts, AFP reported Wednesday.

Police arrested several people in Britain, Spain, Australia and Malaysia in raids linked to the investigation last October.

Binh of the Vietnamese Government Inspectorate said that his agency would only launch an investigation into the case under instructions from the central government.

"The central government has not assigned [us] the job and thus we couldn't take part in it [inspection]. We cannot do it on our will, we must follow the government's instructions," he said.

Asked whether the government inspectors found any evidence related to the polymer banknote scam during an earlier inspection of the state bank, Binh only said there were wrongdoings and it would be the work of police to conduct further investigations.

In conclusion to the inspection, conducted in 2007, inspectors said they hadn't found evidence of corruption, only of shortcomings. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had then requested the governor and his deputies to review their responsibilities in the case and propose remedial solutions.

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