KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Australia has secured a super-injunction order barring its media from reporting on a multi-million-ringgit corruption case implicating top leaders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam in deals with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), whistleblower site WikiLeaks revealed yesterday.
The case stems from the long-running allegations of bribery involving RBA subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia to obtain contracts to supply polymer notes — such as the RM5 bill used here — to the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.
According to WikiLeaks, Canberra invoked grounds of “national security” in order to secure the so-called super-injunction, claiming that censoring reports on the matter would “prevent damage to Australia’s international relations”.
The gag bars mention of 17 top government leaders and heads of states, both past and serving, including “any current or former Prime Minister of Malaysia”, “Truong Tan San, currently President of Vietnam”, “Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, currently President of Indonesia (since 2004)”, “Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former President of Indonesia,” and others.
“With this order, the worst in living memory, the Australian government is not just gagging the Australian press, it is blindfolding the Australian public,” WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange said in the statement.
“The concept of ‘national security’ is not meant to serve as a blanket phrase to cover up serious corruption allegations involving government officials, in Australia or elsewhere... Corruption investigations and secret gag orders for ‘national security’ reasons are strange bedfellows.”
WikiLeaks said the gag order dated June 19 was granted after seven senior executives linked to RBA were secretly charged the same day.
According to the whistleblower organisation that rose to prominence after releasing a tranche of embarrassing US diplomatic cables that exposed candid discussions about world leaders, the injunction also specifically bans the publication of the order itself as well as an affidavit affirmed last month by Australia’s representative to Asean Gillian Bird.
The combination effectively buries any and all coverage on the issue in Australia and the region.
It is also the first time in nearly two decades such a super-injunction was won to muzzle the country’s press, with the previous case being a blanket suppression order issued in 1995 on the joint US-Australian intelligence spying operation against the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.
Allegations of bribery in the polymer note deal traces back to 2003, when former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took office.
It was alleged that agents of the RBA subsidiaries dangled offers of up to RM100 million to secure the contract.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission launched a formal investigation in 2009, resulting in the arrests of eight people, including six former senior executives from the RBA units and an ex-assistant governor of Bank Negara Malaysia.
Abdullah previously categorised the allegations against him as unsubstantiated and false.
Besides the contract to supply the RM5 polymer notes, Securency also previously provided the commemorative RM50 notes issued for the 1998 Commonwealth Games hosted by Malaysia.