Australian construction giant Leighton Holdings, which operates in more than 20 countries, was at the centre of a corruption scandal Thursday, with allegations of bribery among senior executives.
A six-month investigation by Fairfax Media, which obtained hundreds of confidential company documents, exposed what it said were “plans to pay alleged multimillion-dollar kickbacks in Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere, along with other serious corporate misconduct”.
In one case, it alleged former chief executive Wal King approved a A$42 million (HK$305 million) bribe to a firm in Monaco nominated by Iraqi officials who gave Leighton a A$750 million oil pipeline contract.
Fairfax cited a memo written on November 23, 2010, by then acting chief executive David Stewart in which Leighton International managing director David Savage had revealed he and King knew of the massive kickback
“I asked did Wal K approve this? And he said ‘yes’,” the memo reportedly said.
Leighton is a US$7 billion company active around the world in the telecommunications, engineering and infrastructure, building and property, mining and resources, and environmental services industries.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Leighton said it “takes these accusations seriously and is deeply concerned about the suggestions of impropriety” but said the allegations were “exceptional instances”.
It said that in 2011, Leighton voluntarily reported to Australian police a possible breach of its code of ethics relating to accusations of bribery in Iraq, and this was still under investigation.
The statement said a senior executive was dismissed last year and “over recent years, Leighton Holdings has continued to strengthen and improve its corporate governance and risk management processes”.