Maithripala Sirisena Link with secret share deal worth millions of dollars

Two Australian companies are embroiled in bribery scandals that reach into the offices of the presidents of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Congo, as the firms sought to secure multimillion-dollar contracts.

The firm’s overseas staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million aid-funded sewerage project in Sri Lanka in 2011 and, in partnership with a Canadian company, a $2.2 million power plant project in Bangladesh in 2007.

Company emails also reveal Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and his adviser allegedly demanded a political “donation” to be paid by SMEC when Mr Sirisena was a cabinet minister.

lanka-president_Maithripala Sirisena
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

The emails show a plot to skim the money off a World Bank-funded dam project in 2009. In return, Mr Sirisena was to approve the awarding of the dam contract to SMEC, worth $1.82 million .

SMEC’s Sri Lankan manager, who was recently sacked, wrote in emails to two Australian colleagues that he wanted to “inform the minister/co-ordinating secretary” of the size of an alleged kickback to be paid and that he needed to “prioritise” certain payments to unnamed parties “since the signing of the contract would depend” on it.

SMEC has confirmed a “request for a political donation”, but insists an internal investigation found no donation was made and the firm “continues to fully co-operate with the AFP.”

Australia prides itself on being a clean place to do business, but revelations by Fairfax Media and others over a decade show that many companies agree to corrupt practices in developing countries.

The government gave the AFP an extra $15 million in April to fight corporate bribery after Fairfax Media revealed the global Unaoil bribery scandal, which involved construction giant Leighton Holdings, and allegations that Tabcorp bribed the sister of Cambodia’s President.

In a statement overnight, Sri Lanka’s President Sirisena said he had “no knowledge of the incident” and requested further details to “ascertain the involvement of any of his office staff.

The president also said he would co-operate “in any investigation” in Australia and “will also instruct the relevant local authorities to investigate”.

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