‘New notes’ bribery scandal, EFCC invites NGO

Chukwuma Soludo
Chukwuma Soludo

The EFCC is asking questions about bribe payments allegedly made to top CBN officials”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has ordered the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), an advocacy group, to its Abuja Headquarters over a petition the group sent to the anti-graft agency.

In a letter dated August 22, 2012, the EFCC asked the group to report on September 5 in response to a petition brought by HEDA asking the anti-graft agency to investigate and prosecute government officials who were allegedly indicted in the bribery scandal that rocked the printing of polymer naira notes under the Charles Soludo led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Following the October 1, 2009 launch of the polymer bank notes, which saw the N5, N10, and N50 notes remade in polymer material as against the original paper version, a scandal broke that CBN officials had received bribes in order to effect the switch to polymer.

“The polymer notes were said to be cheaper to print, convenient to use, stronger and durable as opposed to the paper notes but reports from various quarters have shown that the subsequent change of the N5, N10 and N50 to polymer notes had an ulterior undertone,” the petition said.

NEXT, the now rested Nigerian newspaper, reported that Securency Pty, a bank note printing company owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), had engaged in series of bribery schemes to secure polymer note printing jobs.

According to the paper, as well as an Australian newspaper, The Age, at least N750 million was paid in bribes to some officials of the CBN between 2006 and 2008 to secure the contract which saw to the initial supply of about 1.9 billion pieces of polymer substrates on which bank notes were printed .

Subsequently, several international investigations over the activities of the bank note company have led to the arrest, prosecution as well as the sack of several top management staff of the RBA and the daughter company, Securency Pty.

HEDA, in its petition accused Nigerian anti-corruption agencies of doing nothing about the case.

“Despite the international and national outcry and outrage that followed the exposure of these corrupt practices, security agencies and anti-corruption institutions in the country seem to have swept the matter under the carpet,” the group said.

According to the organisation, the Nigerian anti-corruption community, ignored several allegations including the allegation that the Australian Federal Police Authority sent a high level confidential security memo to the Presidency through the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) detailing a bribery probe that centered on the series of multimillion-dollar payments by Securency into offshore bank accounts of the two British-based businessmen for onward transfer to Nigerian Government officials to secure the bank-note deal.

Prominent amongst the names that featured in the secret memo were that of the then CBN Governor, Charles Soludo, senior officials of the Finance Ministry and a former president.


Prosecutions

Meanwhile, top officials of Securency Pty are still being prosecuted in an Australian court over “widespread bribery and corruption of foreign public officials in various Asian and other countries to secure bank note printing contracts either directly or through intermediaries who received large commission payments from where it was alleged bribes to foreign public officials would be paid”.

On July 1, 2011, the Australian prosecutor, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), commenced Australia’s first foreign bribery prosecutions against Securency, Note Printing Australia Pty Ltd (NPA), and various executives.

The committal hearings against the Securency and NPA executives commenced before the Magistrates Court of Victoria on 13 August 2012 and are scheduled to run for 2 to 3 months.

The EFCC’s latest response is coming at a time fresh controversy is surrounding the decision by the CBN to print a new N5000 note which will reportedly gulp about N40BN to print.

It is not clear if the proposed new note will also be in polymer or paper.

  • Hickey

    HEDA should learn to stick to its “Human and Environmental Development” agenda and let sleeping dogs lie, says C. Soludo