Why did appointed officials of the Australian Reserve Bank and its employees break sanctions in Iraq and cosy up to Saddam Hussein through a frontman during the late 1990s, early 2000s and beyond? Why did a former Deputy Governor and other directors hand-picked by the Reserve Bank to safeguard its subsidiary companies from corruption, end up—over a decade—overseeing some of the most corrupt business practices possible? How did they allow millions of dollars to be wired to third parties in foreign countries—including a known arms dealer—in order to win banknote contracts knowingly using bribery and supporting corruption?
In the late 1990s, the Reserve Bank of Australia thought it was on a winner. The bank had developed the technology to create polymer bank notes that it claimed rivalled paper money. So the Reserve Bank decided to set up a subsidiary company called Securency to sell the technology to the world. It had just one problem though—getting legitimate access to other central bank officials to pitch the idea. So instead, Securency decided to employ a shadow network of local “fixer agents” to make “connections” with relevant officials, lavishing them with prostitutes, cash, and bribing them into deals. Dirty Money is the story of this institutional corruption at the highest level of finance in Australia.