Australian government targets foreign bribery with anti-graft team launch

September 13, 2016 Stephen Mulrenan

Recent corporate scandals involving Australian companies are threatening the country’s reputation for fairness, and the sitting federal government has had enough of it. Justice Minister Michael Keenan has announced that the government is to recruit a new team of 26 specialist anti-corruption investigators to tackle corporate corruption and prioritise foreign bribery probes. The new officers will include investigators, forensic accountants and lawyers, and will be located in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

The announcement comes off the back of a series of media reports about Australian companies engaging in foreign bribery, including Leighton Offshore as part of the broader Unaoil scandal and, more recently, Western Australia mining company Sundance Resources. However, no executive in Australia is yet to be held accountable for any of the reported misconduct.

In addition to allocating A$15 million (US$12 million) to the Australian federal police to tackle the scourge of corruption, foreign bribery and fraud, the Australian government is also considering its legislative options such as permitting deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs).

In a statement, Keenan said: “Australia has a reputation for fairness; we believe it is part of our national character. When Australian companies engage in unethical and corrupt behaviour overseas, this undermines Australia’s reputation of the nation of a fair go.”

According to Fairfax Group, Sundance allegedly bribed the President of Congo by giving him a stake in the company in return for an iron ore mine licence. The company has since launched an internal investigation into the allegations.

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