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Shorten "promises better" on stopping corruption, where's the Government of Turnbull?

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The Fairfax press today publishes this story by Nick Mckenzie and Richard Baker about corruption within Leighton Holdings (the parent company of Thiess Contractors).

Here are some of the key points:

  • Regulators in Australia have failed to act against alleged corporate misconduct.
  • The issue is "top of mind" due to the corruption highlighted by the banking sector royal commission.
  • Despite voluminous evidence of corruption, police have failed to charge Leightons (since renamed CIMIC) or a single former executive.
  • Labor is set to announce that it will debar corrupt companies from bidding for government work.

Labor's Justice Spokeswoman, Clare O'Neil is quoted:

“It seems there is one justice system for ordinary Australians, and another for big business.” 

“Australia’s anti-corporate bribery regime is ineffective, unworkable and contradictory. Despite regular media reports of criminal conduct, just two foreign bribery prosecutions have resulted in convictions under Australian law,” she said. “Labor believes that corporate crime is just as bad as any other kind of crime.”

It's sad to see Labor take the running on an anti-corruption platform without a whimper from the Turnbull Government.

Yet.

The contemporary attitude towards historical crimes of the banks or Cardinal Pell stands in stark contrast to the attitude towards GILLARD, WILSON and Leighton (Thiess) executives.

From 1991 to 1995 the company and AWU official Wilson (along with his lawyer friends) were engaged in a conspiracy to cheat and defraud and to solicit, to pay and to receive secret commissions.  They money was from taxpayers, illegally funnelled through construction contracts in Western Australia and the Melbourne Water outsourcing contract issued by Victoria's Kennett Government.

Wilson then used his corrupt lawyers at Slater and Gordon to facilitate the laundering of the corruptly obtained monies through the purchase of a property at Kerr Street Fitzroy - and through a mortgage loan issued by Slater and Gordon.  

These historical crimes are no less important than those described in the Fairfax article published today.  

The conspiracy between Thiess executives, Wilson of the AWU and Wilson's law firm enlarges the criminality and strikes at the heart of our justice system in a way that eclipses the crimes exposed at the banking royal commission.

On 27 May 2018 Ralph Blewitt will make his first appearance in the Perth District Court to answer charges that he alone tricked Thiess into paying what were clearly secret commissions intended for Bruce Wilson.  As his trial progresses, Blewitt will no doubt call Bruce WILSON, Julia GILLARD, Bernard MURPHY, Nick JUKES, Joe TRIO and others to the witness box -  along with documents created or authorised by them.

A separate prosecution alleging Julia GILLARD knowingly gave false or misleading evidence to the Trade Union Royal Commission will shortly be filed in a court of competent jurisdiction over that matter.

GILLARD will be personally served with the charges and a comprehensive brief of evidence will support the prosecution, whether it's continued privately or taken up by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Several people close to Turnbull Minister Michaelia Cash have related conversations with Minister Cash to me, conversations in which she said words to the following effect, "Julia Gillard is a former prime minister and because of that she won't be charged".

If that is so it makes for a marked departure from our traditions of equal justice before the law.

I will today ask Minister Cash to confirm whether or not that's the government's position.

The Blewitt prosecution and the private prosecution of GILLARD should drive us further towards the truth and justice.  Evidence published here (with more to come) discloses a substantial prima facie case of serious criminal offences against justice.

Like the evidence unfolding in the Banking Royal Commission, the evidence here demands action.

We deserve justice.

We will never give up until we get it.

Images

 

Australian anti-corruption regime failing as Shorten promises better

The Eclipse, one of Leighton's fleet of multimillion-dollar oil and gas pipe-laying barges.

The Eclipse, one of Leighton's fleet of multimillion-dollar oil and gas pipe-laying barges.

Photo: Supplied

As new evidence has emerged of bribery and corruption in one of Australia's largest construction firms, Leighton Holdings, Labor is set to announce that it will debar corrupt companies from bidding for government work

It will also ban the "facilitation payment" defence which allows Australian firms to pay small, tax deductable bribes in return for routine benefits.

The move comes as leaked offshore banking records obtained by Fairfax Media now provide the most definitive evidence since the Leighton Holdings bribery scandal broke in 2012 that the Australian construction giant and some of its former executives engaged in serious corruption.

The Leighton scandal is notable not only for the huge bribes paid and allegations the company corrupted two Iraqi oil ministers, but also for the failure of police to charge the firm (since renamed CIMIC) or a single former executive.

 

Leighton paid up to $50 million in kickbacks to win a $1 billion oil pipeline contract in Iraq between 2010 and 2012 and has been under serious investigation without charges being brought.

One-time Leighton Offshore chief Peter Cox

One-time Leighton Offshore chief Peter Cox

The corruption of the former CEO of Leighton Offshore, Peter Cox, is detailed in Swiss and United Arab Emirates banking records leaked this month to Fairfax Media.

The records show that even after the Leighton Holdings board in Sydney had called in the federal police anti-bribery squad in November 2011 to investigate Mr Cox and other executives, Mr Cox was continuing to arrange multi-million dollar kickbacks to be paid using company funds.

The leaked records reveal Mr Cox, who was sacked by Leighton in late 2012, was also taking a cut of funds from the bribe cash being funnelled to high ranking Iraqi officials.

Between late 2011 and September 2012, Mr Cox directed a Ferrari driving Dubai middleman, Ramjee Iyer, to pay over $1 million to offshore accounts that Mr Cox controlled.

The leaked files also reveal that Leighton Offshore was running two separate bribe funds to secure the Iraq government contract.

Dubai based businessman Ramjee Iyer, who allegedly paid bribes on behalf of Australian company Leighton Offshore.

Dubai based businessman Ramjee Iyer, who allegedly paid bribes on behalf of Australian company Leighton Offshore.

Photo: Supplied

The first was managed by notorious oil industry fixer Unaoil, which was paid up to $90 million by Leighton, and the second by Mr Iyer, who plied Iraqi officials with cash and, according to a source, prostitutes on behalf of Leighton.

The leaked documents reveal that Mr Iyer was on Leighton Offshore’s payroll between August 2010 and August 2012, during which he received up to $43 million in funds, ostensibly for completing offshore construction work.

Two other former senior Leighton executives are also named in the leaked documents.

However, even though they have been investigating Leighton Offshore for almost seven years, gathering voluminous evidence of criminality, the federal police has not launched a single prosecution.

The Turnbull government in December introduced legislation aimed at toughening Australia’s anti-bribery regime by holding companies liable for failing to prevent kickbacks. It also promised a Deferred Prosecution Agreement scheme, in which companies such as Leighton could avoid court if they conceded wrongdoing and improved governance.

Seizing on the fall-out from the banking royal commission, Labor will now announce plans to go much further than the government.

“It seems there is one justice system for ordinary Australians, and another for big business,” said Labor's justice spokeswoman, Clare O’Neil.

“Australia’s anti-corporate bribery regime is ineffective, unworkable and contradictory. Despite regular media reports of criminal conduct, just two foreign bribery prosecutions have resulted in convictions under Australian law,” she said. “Labor believes that corporate crime is just as bad as any other kind of crime.”

Labor's commitment to a debarment regime is likely to be fiercely resisted by the business community as it may lead to companies being banned from winning lucrative government contracts, causing a far larger financial loss than any fine a court could issue.

It would have been fatal to Leighton Holdings, which completed billions of dollars of government contracts.

Labor’s promised removal of the facilitation payment defence follows similar moves in the UK and Canada, but it has previously been resisted by section of Australia’s mining industry. Some miners argue small payments are needed in developing countries to complete basic tasks, such as receiving licences or permits.

The inability of regulators and police in Australia to act against alleged corporate misconduct and corruption has been highlighted by the banking sector royal commission and, in connection to Leighton, the global Unaoil corruption scandal.

Unaoil's bribery on behalf of dozens of global corporate giants, exposed by Fairfax Media in 2016, has led to criminal charges and huge fines in the UK and US. In Australia, despite intensive investigations, the federal police has failed to lay any charges.

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