A $200,000 (US$150,300) payment, which was allegedly made as part of a previous attempt to secure a lucrative online gaming licence in Cambodia is being examined by Australian and overseas anti-bribery agencies, according to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Australian Securities Exchange chief Elmer Funke Kupper was the CEO of Tabcorp when the gaming behemoth paid $200,000 to a consulting company connected to a sister of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The funds were channelled via the United States to Cambodia in early 2010 when the Tabcorp boss was examining ways to expand into Asian sports betting.
Funke Kupper reportedly did not acknowledge whether he knew of the payment when contacted by local media.
Australian and US laws make it illegal to give any benefit to a foreign official or their representative in order to obtain a business advantage.
The new information revealed by Fairfax is likely to prompt an investigation from the Australian Federal Police.
However, an unnamed spokesperson from the consulting company denied that Tabcorp paid any fees to the firm. “Tabcorp came to Cambodia to work with us but after they did a [feasibility] study, they decided not to put any investment in the country. We have not received any fee … there was a middleman who may have received some fees, such as for airplane tickets, and this issue, I don’t know about.”
In a statement regarding the issue, Tabcorp said “In 2009 Tabcorp investigated a business opportunity in relation to the Cambodian sports betting market, as some Asian countries were considering deregulating sports betting at the time. Ultimately Tabcorp chose not to pursue the opportunity and the business was never operational.”
“Tabcorp takes its obligations under anti-bribery and corruption laws very seriously.”
In response to the news, a Cambodian government official has dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and untrue. Phay Siphan, spokesperson for the Council of Ministers, rejected the claims and added the the prime minster does not accept cash contributions from private-sector companies, and if there were contributions, it would go to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“I think that these allegations are baseless,” he said. “The PM has no habit of receiving cash from anywhere or anyone.”
“If a contribution from a private company is made it goes to the social fund for building schools or roads,” he continued. “The social fund is not for personal use.”