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Qantas chairman must step aside, senator demands

October 17, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59With the Qantas annual general meeting coming up at the end of this week, Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has called on Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford to step aside.

Xenophon says Clifford should step aside until overseas authorities, including the UK Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority (UK), the US Department of Justice and the US Securities Exchange Commission, have completed their investigations into the activities of Barclays Plc during the period when Clifford was a director.

According to a statement issued by Xenophon, Barclays, and a number of its officers, are being investigated for an ‘advisory fee’ of USD 500 million that was allegedly paid to facilitate a transaction with Qatar Holding LLC for a GBP 9.2 billion injection of capital in 2008. Clifford was a director of Barclays at the time the alleged payments occurred, the Australian Financial Review has reported.

US investigators are seeking to determine whether payments made by Barclays to third parties have breached the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Last year, Qantas non-executive director Corinne Namblard resigned, as a result of a corruption investigation in Italy relating to allegations of bid rigging and document fraud for a company of which she was an officer, according to Xenophon’s statement.

“When Ms Namblard stood down, Clifford said the Qantas board ‘appreciated her sentiments’ that she did not want the media coverage of the Italian investigation to impact on Qantas,” Xenophon said. “Perhaps Mr Clifford should consider these very comments in light of his own circumstances.”

“Mr Clifford needs to explain to Qantas shareholders what he knew about those ‘advisory payments’ and explain what involvement, if any, he had in authorising them,” Xenophon said.

“The duties of a director in the UK are as onerous in the UK as they are in Australia,” Xenophon said. “As a director of Barclays, Mr Clifford should have known about all the payments associated with the Qatar capital raising.”

As reported in the Australian Financial Review, the UK Financial Conduct Authority fined Barclays the equivalent of AUD 84 million just last month for not disclosing the secret fees.

“If the ‘advisory fees’ were above board, why weren’t they disclosed to Barclays shareholders?” Xenophon asked. “They should have been disclosed as relevant information.”

“The question also needs to be asked if the transaction would have been facilitated if not for these ‘advisory fees’.”

Clifford is due to face Qantas shareholders at its AGM in Brisbane this Friday, Xenophon noted.

Edited by William Sykes

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