Leighton, BHP on Senate's bribery watch

A SENATE inquiry may be launched to investigate allegations of foreign bribery by large Australian corporations, including Leighton Holdings, Leighton Offshore, Thiess and BHP.
Leighton, BHP on Senate's bribery watch Leighton, BHP on Senate's bribery watch Leighton, BHP on Senate's bribery watch Leighton, BHP on Senate's bribery watch Leighton, BHP on Senate's bribery watch


Marion Lopez

Last night Labor Senator Sam Dastyari told the Senate he had evidence of corrupt behaviour by some large company executives, including reports from whistle-blowers, the ABC said.

He also used parliamentary privilege to name former Leighton executives believed to be at the centre of a bribery scandal in Iraq, which involved paying a $42 million kickback to a middleman in order to secure a $750 million oil pipeline contract.

“David Savage was the former senior executive who allegedly approved the bribe payments. Former CEO David Stewart was allegedly told of the bribery but did not act. Wal King was CEO and board member of Leighton Offshore, the relevant entity during the Iraq project negotiations,” he reportedly said.

A Fairfax investigations dating from 2013 had already accused these executives of taking part in the corrupt deal, after the media outlet said it uncovered hundreds of confidential documents showing a culture of corruption at Leighton Offshore. The claims are currently the subject of investigations by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and at the time, cost Savage and Stewart their jobs on top British construction and engineering firms Laing O’Rourke and Keller.

But Dastyari flagged an inquiry should not only focus on the Leightons but be broadened to other large companies, “including the allegations BHP attempted to bribe Chinese officials”

“I am not proposing an enquiry simply into Leightons, but [that] Leightons serve as a powerful case study for foreign corrupt practices and how the powerful can exploit the system,” he said.

In a statement from its annual report, BHP confirmed it’s been working on solving these matters since it was contacted by US authorities in 2009.

“Following that request, the group commenced an internal investigation and disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials,” BHP said.

“The issues relate primarily to matters in connection with previously terminated exploration and development efforts, as well as hospitality provided as part of the company’s sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The group is currently discussing a potential resolution of the matter.

“As has been publicly reported, the Australian Federal Police has indicated that it has commenced an investigation and the Group continues to fully cooperate with the relevant authorities.”