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President Involved In Bribery Scandal Under Investigation

Fairfax Media, one of the largest media institutions in Australia and New Zealand, has uncovered evidence of a bribery scandal allegedly involving the iconic Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC) and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

This was reported by The Age, a daily newspaper owned by Fairfax Media.

The firm's overseas staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million aid-funded sewerage project in Sri Lanka in 2011 and, in partnership with a Canadian company, a $2.2 million power plant project in Bangladesh in 2007. 

Company emails also reveal Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and his adviser allegedly demanded a political "donation" to be paid by SMEC when Sirisena was a cabinet minister.

The matter is now the subject of a major Australia Federal Police (AFP) probe, the report also said.

The emails show a plot to skim the money off a World Bank-funded dam project in 2009. In return, Sirisena was to allegedly approve the awarding of the dam contract to SMEC, worth $1.82 million.

SMEC's Sri Lankan manager, who was recently sacked, wrote in emails to two Australian colleagues that he wanted to "inform the minister/co-ordinating secretary" of the size of an alleged kickback to be paid and that he needed to "prioritise" certain payments to unnamed parties "since the signing of the contract would depend" on it.

SMEC has confirmed a "request for a political donation", but insists an internal investigation found no donation was made and the firm "continues to fully cooperate with the AFP."

Australia prides itself on being a clean place to do business, but revelations by Fairfax Media and others over a decade show that many companies agree to corrupt practices in developing countries.

(With inputs from The Age)
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