The Australian government has derided attempts to link a recent Alcatel-Lucent bribery probe with the state-led company building the National Broadband Network as a “personal smear”.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard accused opposition leader Tony Abbott of playing smear politics with his suggestion that the recent bribery revelations raise “serious questions” about two senior NBN Co executives, and the circumstances behind their appointments.
Abbot said NBN Co’s CEO Mike Quigley and CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret presided over a company “bedeviled with lax management and practices,” when they worked for Alcatel-Lucent, and questioned whether the government can guarantee that NBN Co “is being administered better than Alcatel was,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
He called on Gillard to reveal what Labor knew about the bribery allegations at the time Quigley and Beaufret were hired.
Gillard said Abbot’s attack on Quigley was a smear on an Australian businessman who was highly regarded in the international telecoms sector, and said the two executives had nothing to do with the bribery allegations.
The spat came days after Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay $137 million (€103 million) to settle charges of offering bribes for contracts in Asia and Latin America, after being charged with violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act last Monday.
Officials claim Alcatel-Lucent's subsidiaries used a network of 'consultants' to funnel more than $8 million in bribes to government officials in exchange for lucrative telecom and related contracts.
Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries Alcatel-Lucent France (formerly Alcatel CIT), Alcatel-Lucent Trade International and Alcatel Centroamerica each pleaded guilty to the bribery charges.
SEC enforcement division director Robert Khazumi said Alcatel-Lucent's bribery scheme was “the product of a lax corporate control environment at the company.” He said Alcatel-Lucent has agreed to conduct a thorough review of its compliance monitoring processes.