THE seduction of an Australian trade envoy by a Vietnamese intelligence officer has been revealed to a Melbourne court looking into bribery claims relating to eight former Reserve Bank executives.
”At the end of the dinner, he asked me would I go upstairs with him to a room in the hotel,” former senior Austrade commissioner Elizabeth Masamune said in her police statement tendered yesterday in a bribery committal against the eight former company executives. ”On the spur of the moment I agreed.”
She said in the statement she had two ”isolated” sexual interactions with spy Colonel Anh Ngoc Luong, who had helped to secure a banknote contract and whom federal police allege received up to $20 million in bribes from the Reserve Bank’s half-owned subsidiary Securency.
The encounters, which she did not initially disclose to police investigators, occurred after she believed that ”the project was secured and that my ongoing role was no longer necessary”. Ms Masamune said in her statement she was ”having problems in my marriage and I liked Anh”.
She said in April or May 2002 there was a dinner celebrating the State Bank of Vietnam’s decision to buy banknote technology from Securency and it was there that Anh first approached her. ”There was a great deal of jubilation. At the end of that dinner, where I saw Anh had several drinks, I believe he did something similar to putting his hand on my knee under the table. I recall at that point in time being a little shocked because I had never considered the possibility of him having personal feelings for me.”
About a month later, she said, he invited her to dinner and then propositioned her.
”Vietnamese women have a strong reputation for being quite strict with their husbands and Anh seemed to be me to be a little bit afraid of his wife,” she told police.
She said she did not have romantic feelings or ”particular allegiance” towards Anh and he ”just went on as if nothing had happened”.
The court was shown an email from several months later, in July 2002, in which Ms Masamune wrote to Securency executives relaying that Anh was upset and, according to her statement, ”believed that if Securency did not lower the quoted price [to the bank] … then no contract would be awarded”.
The second encounter occurred in 2006, she said, after she had left Vietnam.
She said in her statement she was ”extremely proud of the work that I do, I try to maintain integrity … at all times and I would not have compromised the interests of a client”.
”I do understand that now that charges have been laid and that this is an official proceedings that, regardless of what is a fairly significant personal cost to me, I should voluntarily disclose this information,” she said in her second police statement, which was the only statement tendered to the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday.
She said corruption incurred the death penalty in Vietnam and she believed there were low levels of corruption there. She also believed that ”Securency as being part owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia … would not engage or consider engaging in corrupt practices”.
The hearing continues.
ANZ named in RBA bribery hearing
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd has been named in a court hearing over the Reserve Bank of Australia’s note-printing bribery scandal, after being accused of paying a Vietnamese spy colonel to help “open doors” for the company, according to The Australian Financial Review.
According to the newspaper, former senior Australian trade commissioner to Vietnam, Elizabeth Masamune, told the court that ANZ had hired Colonel Anh Ngoc Luong, a top official in Vietnam’s state intelligence network, in the early 2000s.
Ms Masamune claims Colonel Ahn had in turn employed the son of the then governor of Vietnam’s state-owned bank to help set up ANZ’s ATM technology in Vietnam.
“In general terms, I think it is a reference to the fact of being able to talk to people who knew people and could open doors,” Ms Masamune said, according to the AFR.
Colonel Luong is alleged to have received up to $20 million in suspected bribes from various companies and institutions.