30 Sep 2013

RBA company tried to reach business deal with Saddam

10:06 am on 30 September 2013

A joint ABC Four Corners/Fairfax Media investigation has revealed a company owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia made illegal attempts to strike a business deal with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The ABC reports that officials from the RBA's Note Printing Australia went to Iraq at the height of UN sanctions to discuss the sale of plastic notes to the Iraqi government.

They met Hussein's brother-in-law, Arshad Yassin, during the trip in 1998. A file document said:

"Arshad Yassin (is) extremely influential (and) willing to open all the doors for us. Arshad Yassin is critical as all decision on [the] project will be taken by Saddam Hussein."

The ABC reports the operation was called Delta Project and the aim was to win a contract that would allow NPA to turn Iraq's paper currency into plastic or polymer bank notes.

"Indications from Arshad Yassin's office are that Saddam Hussein's office has already allocated $US65 million for the total project," RBA officials reported in the document.

"He has confirmed that Saddam Hussein has seen the polymer notes samples and is keen to adopt our product."

The ABC reports the deal was called off six months later after Australian diplomats uncovered the NPA's dealings with the Hussein regime.

The diplomats warned the company may have breached Australia's obligations under international law.