Australia in international fraud raids

British, Australian and Spanish police have carried out a series of raids as part of an investigation into the allegedly corrupt practices of one of the world’s leading currency printing firms.

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Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said that officers in all three countries have carried out a total of 16 searches and that British police had made two arrests as part of their probe into the workings of Australia’s Securency International PTY Ltd.

The Craigieburn-based company is a pioneer in the production of plastic-based bank notes, which are more durable, cleaner and far more difficult to fake than their paper counterparts. Referred to as polymer notes, they’re especially popular in hot, humid countries where paper tends to degrade much faster.

The technology is in use in some 30 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that officers were investigating allegations that bribes had been paid to senior politicians and banking officials by agents or middlemen working for the company to win contracts to produce the polymer notes.

The UK fraud office said in a brief statement that Securency was accused of improperly securing contracts. Spokesman David Jones provided little else in the way of detail, saying only that the probe was being jointly led by his office and Australian officials and that further information was unlikely to be released unless charges were brought.

The investigation is particularly sensitive because Securency is a joint venture between the Australia’s central bank and UK-based Innovia Films Ltd. The Sydney Morning Herald said the Reserve Bank of Australia appoints half the company’s board, including its chairman.

A message seeking comment from Securency’s Australian office late on Wednesday was not immediately returned, while a call placed with an Innovia representative in Britain did not go through.