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Australian companies embroiled in bribery scandals in Sri Lanka and Congo
Published on 25-08-2016 - at 03:04' by ABC

Two Australian companies are being investigated over alleged bribery scandals linked to the presidents of Sri Lanka and the Congo, after the firms sought to secure multi-million-dollar contracts in those countries.

A Fairfax Media and 7.30 investigation can reveal Perth’s Sundance Resources is implicated in an alleged bribery plot involving some family members of Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Engineering giant Snowy Mountain Engineering Company is being separately investigated over claims its staff sought approval to pay kickbacks to foreign officials, including a donation to the party of Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena when he was a cabinet minister.

While these matters are still being investigated, the revelations place pressure on the Turnbull Government to reform Australia’s maligned anti-corruption framework, and come after foreign bribery allegations implicating Tabcorp, Leighton Holdings and BHP Billiton.

Iconic Australian firm facing bribery investigations

The iconic Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC) is the subject of a major AFP probe examining the firm’s overseas operations.

7.30 can reveal SMEC’s overseas staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million aid-funded sewerage project in Sri Lanka in 2011, and a smaller power plant project in Bangladesh in 2007.

Leaked internal company emails also reveal claims from SMEC’s Sri Lankan manager in 2009 that then senior minister Maithripala Sirisena and one of his advisers allegedly requested a political "donation" before signing cabinet papers for a $1.82 million dam contract sought by SMEC. Mr Sirisena is now Sri Lanka’s President.

"The minister ... wants to know whether SMEC could make a donation for the elections," an email from the SMEC manager states about his meeting with Mr Sirisena.

The same email states: "[Mr Sirisena’s] Coordinating Secretary said this is the way it goes prior to signing the cabinet papers. He wants us to produce an amount/percentage on the contract value."

In a statement overnight, Mr Sirisena said he had "no knowledge of the incident" and requested further details to "ascertain the involvement of any of his office staff".

The President also said he would co-operate "in any investigation" in Australia and "will also instruct the relevant local authorities to investigate".

The SMEC Sri Lankan manager also wrote he wanted to "inform the minister/co-ordinating secretary" of the size of a suspected kickback to be paid. In another email, the manager said he needed to "prioritise" certain payments to unnamed parties "since the signing of the contract would depend" on it.

In a statement, SMEC confirmed there was a "request for a political donation".

But it said its internal investigation had found that no payment was ever made by the company in response, and the firm "continues to fully cooperate with the AFP".

The iconic Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC) is the subject of a major AFP probe examining the firm’s overseas operations.

7.30 can reveal SMEC’s overseas staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million aid-funded sewerage project in Sri Lanka in 2011, and a smaller power plant project in Bangladesh in 2007.

Leaked internal company emails also reveal claims from SMEC’s Sri Lankan manager in 2009 that then senior minister Maithripala Sirisena and one of his advisers allegedly requested a political "donation" before signing cabinet papers for a $1.82 million dam contract sought by SMEC. Mr Sirisena is now Sri Lanka’s President.

"The minister ... wants to know whether SMEC could make a donation for the elections," an email from the SMEC manager states about his meeting with Mr Sirisena.

The same email states: "[Mr Sirisena’s] Coordinating Secretary said this is the way it goes prior to signing the cabinet papers. He wants us to produce an amount/percentage on the contract value."

In a statement overnight, Mr Sirisena said he had "no knowledge of the incident" and requested further details to "ascertain the involvement of any of his office staff".

The President also said he would co-operate "in any investigation" in Australia and "will also instruct the relevant local authorities to investigate".

The SMEC Sri Lankan manager also wrote he wanted to "inform the minister/co-ordinating secretary" of the size of a suspected kickback to be paid. In another email, the manager said he needed to "prioritise" certain payments to unnamed parties "since the signing of the contract would depend" on it.

In a statement, SMEC confirmed there was a "request for a political donation".

But it said its internal investigation had found that no payment was ever made by the company in response, and the firm "continues to fully cooperate with the AFP".

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Sundance Resources is facing bribery allegations related to the Mbalam‐Nabeba mine

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