On Monday, I wrote:
The Court’s judgment in Strickland is a powerful (if controversial) step in the promotion of the rule of law and the right to silence, but it is only a penultimate one. Only when (or if) the Victorian courts finally lift their suppression orders will the Australian public be able to judge to nobility or villainy of the investigators, prosecutors and courts in this matter.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Victoria reportedly lifted the suppression order, prompting the media to write at last on the High Court’s ruling two weeks ago and reveal that it concerned a high profile scandal: the involvement of two companies with close connections to the Reserve Bank of Australia in the bribery (said to total some $50 million) of various foreign government officials. The effect of the High Court’s 5-2 ruling is that four of the alleged conspirators, all former executives of Note Printing Australia, which produces polymer notes for the Reserve Bank, cannot be tried on charges of bribery and (for three of them) false accounting. The media reporting also reveals that the two companies themselves both plead guilty to bribery, resulting in fines and heavy pecuniary penalties, and that a number of people have been convicted and sentenced (in some instances to prison) for their role in the scandal.
The lifting of the suppression orders means that the original judgments of Hollingworth J, which do not use pseudonyms, are now available. And that means that the pseudonyms in the High Court judgment can now be linked to actual names, as follows:
- Tony Strickland = Peter Sinclair Hutchinson, former CFO of Note Printing Australia
- Donald Galloway = Barry Thomas Brady, a former sales executive of Note Printing Australia
- Edmund Hodges = John Leckenby, former CEO of Note Printing Australia
- Rick Tucker = Steven Kim Chow Wong, a former sales manager of Note Printing Australia
- XYZ Limited = Securency International Pty Ltd, a joint venture with the UK’s Innovia Films, once 50% owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia
- QRS Limited = Note Printing Australia Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia
- Operation Thuja = Operation Rune, the Australian Federal Police investigation into Securency and later Note Printing Australia
- Officer Schwartz = Rohan Pike, a former Senior Investigating Officer of the Australian Federal Police, in charge of Operation Rune from late 2009 and later the AFP’s Team Leader Quality Assurance.
For convenience, I’ve produced a modified version of the High Court judgment with the correct names in place (with all my modifications in red. Note that there is some apparent confusion in some judgments between XYZ and QRS.)
Most importantly, the lifting of the suppression order now means that Hollingworth J’s lengthy original judgment, granting the stay, is now available for all to read. It is the best account available of what happened in this investigation and prosecution (with numerous factual findings all unchallenged in the High Court) and of the legal history and analysis (the latter largely, but not wholly, upheld by the High Court.) The judgment is well worth reading in its entirety, but three matters stand out to me:
- First, there is an account of the replacement of the original head of Operation Rune, Ken McDermott, with Rohan Pike in late 2009, including speculation about the role of senior AFP management in this ill-fated change: see -. See also Hollingworth J’s harsh criticism of Pike’s credibility at -.
- Second, there is Hollingworth J’s finding about ACC Examiner Tim Sage’s workload: ‘Sage said that in a normal year, he would undertake more than 300 examinations; in a busy year, it would be more than 400… It is difficult to see how Sage could act as an effective gatekeeper or custodian, given his workload.’
- Finally, there are Hollingworth J’s remarks on the impact of the Victorian Court of Appeal’s 2014 ruling that the four defendants could not cross-examine their prosecutors on the legal advice they gave to investigators unless they already had the documents setting out the advice. At -, she observes how the Commonwealth DPP initially used this ruling to avoid revealing two ‘bullet points’ in the AFP’s examinations guide, points that proved crucial to the defendants’ argument for a stay and were expressly relied upon by the High Court plurality at  and by Edelman J at . I criticise the Victorian Court of Appeal’s evidence law ruling in my chapter in Dan Meagher’s and Matthew Groves’s book on the principle of legality.