It has been reported that six months after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) opened an “essential priority” investigation into allegations of bribery involving a Gold-Coast-based company accused of trying to topple the government of Nauru, the AFP has yet to conduct key interviews or gather evidence. The AFP, which received a referral from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in April “in relation to allegations of bribery of foreign officials”, lodged a request for affidavit material from two Nauru politicians last month. The two politicians are Dr Kieren Keke, Nauru’s Foreign Minister who is currently in Brisbane, and Mr Dominic Tabuna, the country’s former Deputy Speaker.
It is reported that Dr Keke said he has been waiting to give AFP information to advance its investigation, regarding the conduct of representatives of Getax Australia. It has been reported that Nauru President Mr Marcus Stephen and his cabinet ministers had accused Getax of trying to topple the government in a bid to gain control of the Pacific nation’s most lucrative asset, phosphate.
The family behind Getax has rejected claims of wrongdoing, but has declined to respond to questions. It is alleged that in the wake of the Nauru government’s rejection of a business proposal by Getax Australia, 11 of Nauru’s 18 parliamentarians, including the six-strong opposition, went on a Getax-funded trip to Singapore. After the trip, three of the government’s members switched to the opposition amid claims of bribery and vote-buying, triggering the past 10 months of political crisis and a rolling state of emergency.
Foreign Minister Mr Kevin Rudd is reported to have said that the allegations of bribery of foreign officials were being “taken very seriously”. In response to a question about the AFP’s inaction over the past six months, an AFP spokesman said, “the investigation of foreign bribery allegations can be protracted where witnesses and evidence are located offshore. These are complex and sensitive matters that require significant investigation in conjunction with overseas law enforcement agencies. Foreign bribery matters are rated ‘essential priority’ and ‘high impact’ by the AFP case categorisation prioritisation model”.