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Who are the real criminals?

Things are so bad on Nauru that New Zealand has stopped foreign aid to their justice sector.

Foreign minister Murray McCully told Radio New Zealand “To put the funding on hold for any justice sector support is something we do very reluctantly, but we are in a position where we think that support is going to be viewed as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, if we allow things to go forward without any shift in approach.”

The following were some of the concerns raised by New Zealand about Nauru’s ‘diminishing rule of law’

  • Arrested and deported Nauru’s magistrate Peter Law in January 2014 while Law was preparing inquiry into the death of justice minister’s wife
  • Cancelled the visa for its chief justice Geoffrey Eames preventing him from re-entering the country
  • Revoked the visa of Katy Le Roy, legal counsel to the parliament and wife of suspended opposition MP Roland Kun
  • Suspended five opposition MPs from the 18-seat parliament
  • Imposed a non-refundable $8,000 application fee for any off-island journalist
  • Fired Australian police commissioner as investigation into bribery allegations involving the president and justice minister was in progress
  • Directed internet provider Digicel to shut off access to Facebook, and refused to let the general manager back into the country

In the meantime, the Australian Government will provide an estimated $25.5 million in total ODA to Nauru in 2016-17. This will include an estimated $21.2 million in bilateral funding to Nauru managed by DFAT. Revenue associated with the presence of the Offshore Processing Centre and its ancillary service providers represents Nauru’s most significant revenue stream.

Despite having given the country a great deal of money resulting in almost full employment, little progress has been made. According to DFAT’s own webpage, “poor health and education outcomes persist. Energy and clean water production are reliant on the costly importation of diesel fuel. Public sector management is hampered by a lack of skilled and qualified personnel, and critical national infrastructure is dilapidated.”

In 2012, the OECD produced a scathing report into Australia’s very poor record in investigating and prosecuting foreign bribery allegations. One of the ongoing cases concerns Nauru.

Phosphate Mining Case : A company allegedly bribed parliamentarians in a foreign country to obtain a phosphate mining permit. The company includes two corporate entities: one incorporated in a third country and one incorporated in Australia. Only the entity incorporated in a third country was implicated in the allegations. The AFP interviewed two complainants regarding the allegations, but concluded that the investigation could not continue for lack of jurisdiction. However, in the course of investigation, a number of unrelated financial transactions by the company were identified as suspicious. These transactions were passed to AUSTRAC, who conducted a financial analysis that enabled the AFP to establish a separate evaluation into other possible foreign bribery offences, which is ongoing.

That company was Getax, which was formerly based on the Gold Coast. The ABC revealed documents detailing tens of thousands of dollars being paid by them to the family of Nauru’s Justice Minister, David Adeang. The co-chair of the International Bar Association’s anti-corruption committee, Robert Wyld, says the evidence appears clear.

“There appears to be a very compelling case to evidence what a businessman or company has tried to do, and that is to pay money to politicians to secure a business deal,” he told 7.30. The AFP say they have been investigating for several years but have taken no action so far.

Transparency International Australia Chairman, former Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Whealy QC, says the lack of action may be viewed by some as a political decision, due to the Australian Government’s deal with Nauru for offshore immigration processing.

“There is a perception that perhaps the Government doesn’t want this sort of investigation to come to anything much,” he said.

Also mentioned in the OECD report, under the heading ‘terminated cases’, was one involving James Packer’s casinos in Macau.

Casino Foreign Bribery Case: In 2009, authorities in a foreign country brought charges against one of their officials for domestic bribery and listed two projects by an Australian casino company as “suspect projects” in the indictment. According to media reports, indications of bribery included the fact that the casinos were granted land that was originally planned for the construction of a university, and construction began before formal rezoning procedures were completed and recorded. Australia reported to the Working Group that the AFP supported investigations by the foreign authorities, but did not start a domestic investigation.

The AFP may have decided not to investigate but the Chinese, in their continuing crackdown on corruption in the gambling industry, arrested 18 Crown employees last week. It is understood the arrests relate to soliciting Chinese high rollers to gamble in overseas casinos — which can carry a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Crown is investing $2 billion in a six-star hotel and casino resort at Barangaroo in Sydney and the detentions have raised questions about the new complex and its business model, which is focused on attracting high-rollers from overseas.

“Crown’s whole future is based around Barangaroo, and it is based on Chinese high-rollers,” said one industry insider. “There are no slots [poker machines].”

The development was fast-tracked (nothing to do with Ros Packer’s donation to the Liberal Party of course), and the casino has been given exemptions from Sydney’s lock-out laws. James Packer has also accompanied our politicians on state visits.

The OECD also drew attention to the ongoing RBA scandal which, in the latest development in May this year, saw employee Paul Chapman found guilty of paying bribes to a government employee in Nigeria. In sentencing, Judge Michael Grieve QC seemed equally angry at Chapman’s former employer, Australian banknote company Securency, and its senior management who, he said, had pushed Chapman into corruption.

While the government wails about union corruption, they seem loathe to even mention the far greater problem of business and government corruption, let alone prosecute it. There continues to be a real reluctance to investigate anything that might prove “embarrassing”.

If they were serious about stamping out corruption, they would agree to a Federal ICAC and stop using the AFP as a political tool. Forget the unions – let’s start with the real criminals here.

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8 comments

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  1. Jaquix

    New Zealand are fortunate they can act sensibly because they are not beholden to the big donors like Australia’s Liberal Party (in particular) is. They also dont have the Murdoch monopoly, and this makes a huge difference to the way the nation thinks.

  2. keerti

    Surprise, surprise, we have a corrupt government! Broaden the definition of corruption to destroying the lives of illegally kept prisoners on Nauru, money stolen from the poor and money given as a cash bonus to multinationals whilst destroying well planned environmental schemes to bring down carbon. We have a mob who shouldn’t ever be allowed near parliament, let alone government, ever again.

  3. david1

    @Jaquix There are no truly national newspapers, although The New Zealand Herald and to a lesser extent The Dominion Post are both available outside their core areas. The four main centres of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin are served by The New Zealand Herald, The Dominion Post, The Press in Christchurch, and Dunedin’s Otago Daily Times. In addition, there are several weekly newspapers with a national scope, including two tabloids. There are also numerous low-budget weekly newspapers catering for particular suburbs or for subcultures including the gay and farming communities and various ethnic groups.

    Ownership of New Zealand newspapers is dominated by Fairfax New Zealand and APN News & Media, with Fairfax having 48.6% of the daily newspaper circulation. The NZ Herald would be considered the equivalent of our Australian it has always been a right conservative publication, Fairfax own the Dominion Evening Post and would be considered center of right.

    New Zealand’s Labour Party and NZ Greens have great difficulty in receiving positive coverage, Labour not helped by recent leadership problems.

    The ruling National Party led by multi millionaire John Keys (familiar?) while not as bloody minded as the LNP Govt here, are conservative in the true meaning of the word.The big end of town do very well thank you in Aotearoa.and their Social welfare system has gone through a major upheaval, to the detriment of beneficiaries since the Key Govt took power 8 years ago. The exception being medical benefits Kiwis are well served by their hospitals and prescription service, by comparison.

    However their Asylum Seeker policy is 100% superior to the shocking treatment this sewer dwelling administration dishes out, New Zealand has both conscience and heart

  4. Kate M

    Great article as always Kaye.

  5. paulwalter

    Good reminder as to Getax and the slimy way business is really done at high and obscure levels.

  6. Florence nee Fedup

    It is not even unions. it is one union.

  7. Anomander

    We really aren’t much better. Don’t forget how appallingly our own government acted with our newest neighbour Timor-Leste and how we deliberately took advantage of them by redrawing the national boundary to gain control over strategic oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

  8. Kaye Lee

    And then foreign minister Alexander Downer began working as a consultant to resources giant Woodside after leaving Parliament.

    Woodside had the rights to develop the Timor Gap reserves, and it was Mr Downer who allegedly ordered the eavesdropping.

    Then George Brandis approved raids on the lawyer and confiscated the passport of the whistleblower and threatened him with criminal prosecution for revealing their dirty tricks. They don’t deny them, just immediately launch into intimidation to stop them being investigated.

    And why has Brandis spent tens of thousands of our dollars in an attempt to avoid releasing his diary?

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