Australia central bank sells scandal-hit note firm stake

Australia's central bank on Tuesday announced the sale of its stake in scandal-hit note printing firm Securency and said an independent governance review had cleared it of "inappropriate" insight.

The Reserve Bank of Australia sold its 50 percent holding in Securency, accused of taking bribes to win contracts in Asia, to British venture partner Innovia Films for Aus$65 million (US$66.7 million).

"The sale of the bank's interest in Securency is in accordance with the bank's long-standing intention to exit from the joint venture once Securency had established itself as a viable long-term supplier in the international market," the RBA said in a statement.

Note Printing Australia, a second RBA firm implicated in the Asia bribery scandal which the media broke in 2009, would remain a "wholly-owned subsidiary of the bank", it added.

The RBA also released a review into the governance of Securency and NPA by independent consultancy Cameron Ralph which cleared it of serious oversight issues.

Cameron Ralph said the RBA "gave reasonable consideration as to the governance arrangements for the two companies, and put in place processes for their oversight and reporting which were broadly consistent with usual practice at the time".

It appointed people to the firms' boards that it was "entitled to believe could direct the affairs of the companies with due care, diligence and skill", received regular reports and responded in a "considered and deliberate way".

The bank took "appropriate action where the entities appeared not to be performing in line with expectations and/or standards", Cameron Ralph added.

"Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, there could have been more oversight applied to the activities of the companies, which may have detected earlier the alleged illegal payments" it said.

"But that does not mean that the Bank's oversight at the time was inappropriate."

Eight executives from Securency and NPA are facing claims they conspired to bribe officials at foreign banks to secure contracts to make plastic banknotes.

Both companies have also been charged over the alleged racket, which involved contracts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal.