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Australia lifts ‘worst-ever’ gag order in banknote bribe case

Victoria's Supreme Court revoked a year-old suppression order that had prevented publication of any information about alleged overseas bribes the Reserve Bank of Australia paid to win banknote printing contracts in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The "super-injunction" obtained last year by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade invoked national security grounds to prevent reporting about the case.

RBA subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia allegedly paid massive bribes to government officials in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries to win contracts to supply polymer bank notes.

The suppression order also barred publication of information about the order itself and its contents. (A lawyer in London warned the FCPA Blog about its coverage of the gag order.)

But Wikileaks published the order (pdf) and an affidavit supporting it.

The gag order followed the secret indictment of seven senior executives from subsidiaries of Australia's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Wikileaks said.

The Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne said last July the suppression order was needed to avoid unfairly implicating foreign leaders and to protect Australia's "national security" and "prevent damage to Australia's international relations."

The order banned reporting about 17 named individuals, including current and former heads of state of Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and some of their relatives and political associates.

WikiLeaks' publisher Julian Assange, who's Australian, said in a press release last year the gag order was embarrassing and "the worst in living memory."

Assange has been living in Ecuador's embassy in London for three years. He's wanted in Sweden for questioning about an alleged sexual assault. He says the charges are politically motivated.

In revoking the gag order this month, Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said Wikileaks' earlier publication rendered futile any attempts now to keep the order and its contents secret.

She said Australia's federal police "are investigating the conduct of WikiLeaks and whoever supplied the DFAT order to WikiLeaks."

Justice Hollingworth called Wikileaks' publication of the gag order "a clear and deliberate breach of law."


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

Reader Comments (1)

If this type of information exposes the "temperature" of what we see in global corruption, or corruption in general, imagine what the global corruption thermometer would show of things unseen and untold. I'd say we're boiling. Just thinking.
July 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTjones
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