Ludwig von Gress
This is not about the drug influx mostly ignored by our authorities from the fear that our trading partners the Vietnamese and Chinese would loose a face. At least I hope it is not.
Our man in Hanoi? Their woman in Canberra?
Senior trade commissioner Elizabeth Masamune, who held a top-secret Australian security clearance, met Colonel Anh Ngoc Luong, a top official in Vietnam’s state intelligence network, in the early 2000s when she was based in Hanoi.
At the time, Colonel Luong was working with RBA firm Securency to win a huge plastic banknote contract with Vietnam’s central bank. Last year Colonel Luong was accused in court by Australian prosecutors and federal police of receiving up to $20 million in suspected bribes from Securency.
Diplomatic sources have confirmed that while Ms Masamune was encouraging Securency to make substantial payments to Colonel Luong in return for his help winning contracts, she was also intimately involved with him.
She did not declare the details of her relationship with the colonel to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or Australia’s intelligence agencies while she was posted to the communist country.
As Australia’s most senior trade official in Vietnam, Ms Masamune would have regularly received classified Australian government briefings.
A senior diplomatic source said Colonel Luong is listed by Australian agencies as a colonel in Vietnam’s spy agency, the Ministry of Public Security. ***
Revelation of the affair will reignite pressure on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to set up a broad inquiry into the extent to which senior Austrade and RBA officials supported or covered up bribery and engaged in other improper behaviour.
This is somewhat wishful thinking. Gillard investigating bribery and improper behaviour? Himmler investigating anti-semitism?
The Age first reported last December on documents released under freedom-of-information laws detailing how Ms Masamune, now Austrade’s Sydney-based general manager for east Asian growth markets, knew in 2001 of Securency’s financial dealings with Colonel Luong.
Internal Austrade documents indicate senior trade officials knew of Colonel Luong’s links to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security as early as 1998. Despite Australia introducing laws in 1999 banning payments to foreign officials, no one in Austrade warned Securency it might be acting illegally by paying him.
In January 2001, Ms Masamune told Securency she would ”stay in touch with Anh [Colonel Luong] and follow up on the letters he needs to write to you regarding other financial issues”. Ms Masamune also told Securency she would lobby the Immigration Department to issue Colonel Luong with a ”super-quick” visa. She helped facilitate a trip to America by him and other Vietnamese officials and paid for by Securency.
Ms Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan have repeatedly resisted calls for a broad inquiry into the bribery scandal.
The federal police inquiry into the scandal was sparked by revelations in The Age in 2009, but it has been limited to investigating and charging with bribery offences former executives of Securency and Note Printing Australia. The AFP has not investigated the role of government agencies in the scandal, despite extensive evidence Australian officials were aware of or involved in some of Securency and NPA’s overseas dealings.
The pending court cases in Melbourne against some Securency executives seem to concentrate exclusively on Malaysian connection, ignoring Communist Vietnam. Mysterious are the ways of secret services. Apparent failures are sometimes coups and so many failures can be covered up by a ‘nudge, nudge,wink, wink” drill. Maybe ’twas famous victory.