Boosting efforts to tackle foreign bribery

 

Today we are boosting our efforts to tackle bribery in offshore jurisdictions.

We are investing a further $15 million over three years to strengthen the capacity of the Australian Federal Police and specialist agencies to trace corrupt money flows, seize tainted proceeds and engage the best lawyers to prosecute perpetrators.

These funds will be used to expand and enhance the foreign bribery investigation teams of the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre (FAC), a multi-agency initiative based within the Australian Federal Police (AFP), set up by the Coalition Government in July 2014.

Since its inception, the Centre has dramatically improved our capacity to deal with fraud and corruption by drawing on the forensic and analytical capacities of 11 departments and Australian government agencies.

The Centre includes permanent representatives of the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Crime Commission and the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing agency AUSTRAC.

The new funds will also support the Centre’s 18 ongoing foreign bribery investigations.

The power of this multi-agency approach has been underscored by the ATO’s recent success in identifying more than 800 Australian names in the Panama Papers and matching about 80 of those names to the ACC’s serious and organised crime intelligence data base.

This breakthrough led to an urgent meeting of eight agencies on 12 April to coordinate our whole of government response, which will include investigations of suspected tax evasion and other serious financial crimes.

This new initiative will fund three foreign bribery investigative teams – 26 new positions within the AFP – which include investigators, forensic accountants and proceeds of crime litigators.

The money will be sourced from confiscated proceeds of crime - unlike Labor who used such funding to boost their bottom line.

The claim from Labor's shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus that we have not acted on foreign bribery is grossly hypocritical.

The alleged corrupt activity he cited in his media release was first made to the AFP when his government was in power. Mark Dreyfus can’t claim he wasn’t aware of this because the AFP have stated publicly that: “The AFP can confirm it received a referral from Leighton Holdings Pty Ltd on 7 November 2011 relating to alleged improper payments made by its international subsidiary, Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd.”

What was Mark Dreyfus’ response at the time? Nothing.

Our government, in contrast, will be relentless in its efforts to stamp out corruption - wherever it occurs.

We need clean, open and efficient markets for economies and societies to thrive.

Australia is consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world and the Coalition is committed to ensuring we do not become complacent.

We have strong laws to prevent corrupt activity involving Australians overseas. These offences carry penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and fines of up to $1.8 million for individuals and $18 million for corporations.

We won’t stop there. Taking action against bribery and corporate corruption is an ongoing task.

The Coalition will continue to explore options to resource our agencies, strengthen our laws and our means of enforcing them.