ASIC’s defence: Why we didn’t investigate the RBA

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ASIC has defended its inaction against the RBA and its former subsidiaries Securency International and Note Printing Australia.

The corporate regulator has publicly responded to questions from ABC’s four corners, about why it didn’t investigate the RBA’s involvement in the Securency International scandal.

The response follows leaked reports that officials from the RBA's Note Printing Australia (NPA) went to Iraq and engaged in secret dealings with the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein at the height of UN sanctions.

In 2012, ASIC said that it would not pursue a formal investigation after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) provided it with material relating to bribery allegations against Securency International and Note Printing Australia. It was alleged that the companies bribed foreign officials to secure banknote contracts.

“Let me be absolutely crystal clear,” said ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer, “ASIC looked at this matter very closely, but based on the facts and the evidence available, decided not to take the matter further. What we did do, was review more than 10,000 pages of documents, including several detailed witness statements provided by the police.”

The material that ASIC examined related to alleged conduct in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal.

“As there are related prosecutions before the Court, we are not in the position to detail publicly all of the reasons for our decision but the public can be completely and utterly confident in what ASIC did.”

Tanzer cited ASIC’s enforcement history as a reason why people should have faith in the regulator.

“For instance, last year we completed 187 investigations, we kicked 88 people out of the financial services industry, we convicted 22 people and we had 9 sent to jail,” he said.

This included 11 people being jailed, banned, disqualified or removed from the industry for more than 50 years in relation to Trio Capital; An enforceable undertaking from Macquarie Equities; The largest fine in ASIC’s history ($500,000) handed down to Ponzi scheme “mastermind” David Hobbs; And actions against rogue CBA advisers.

ASIC has released a follow-up statement saying that the Iraq bribery allegations will be considered but that a six-year statute of limitations applies to civil penalty cases.