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Case dropped against S.Sudan banknotes, passports printing firm

Author: Daniel Danis | Published: Thursday, June 18, 2020

De La Rue company

The UK government has ended its investigation into the dealings in South Sudan of an international money printing company.

Banknote printer De La Rue was being probed by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office for “suspected corruption.”

In July last year, the Serious Fraud Office opened a criminal investigation into the company’s dealings in South Sudan.

The company which has designed and manufactured the South Sudanese Pounds since 2011 is suspected of conducting fraud-related businesses with the country.

South Sudan awarded the company a contract to produce 2.8 billion banknotes in 2011, helping put De La Rue back on the path to growth.

It became the world’s biggest printer of banknotes and also the biggest commercial printer of passports.

Last year, South Sudan printed new currency notes ranging from 500 pounds from De La Rue.

The British security printer also won a three-year contract to design and manufacture 11.1 billion of Kenya’s new generation currency.

But the London-based Serious Fraud Office said it was examining how De La Rue, which also produces notes for the Bank of England conducted business in the world’s newest country.

It, however, did not specify the exact allegations labelled against it to warrant such investigations.

De La Rue was at the centre of several probes by the Serious Fraud Office, including a 2010 investigation into the falsification of banknote quality certificates by its employees, and the subsequent suspension of supply to an Indian Reserve Bank.

On Tuesday this week, the Serious Fraud Office informed the company that it has closed the investigation, without disclosing its findings or the nature of the investigation.

“Following extensive investigation and a thorough and detailed review of the available evidence, the SFO has concluded that this case did not meet the relevant test for prosecution as defined in the Code for Crown Prosecutions,” the SFO said.

Law experts in the UK say that “effectively meant there was no realistic chances of getting a prosecution in court.”

De La Rue welcome the decision to discontinue the investigation into the group and “associated persons.”

“De La Rue is pleased that the SFO has closed its investigation and that the SFO is taking no further action in respect of this matter,” it said in a brief statement.

De La Rue has been investigated three times in the past 13 years.

International graft monitors said international companies and neighbours were helping in receiving or processing billions of dollars in stolen funds from South Sudan, fuelling inflation at home and financing civil war.

They said looted money often by top officials leaves South Sudan in dollars, making currency trading one of the most lucrative businesses in the country.

Experts speculate that companies such as De La Rue help print stacks of money that is not eventually injected into the local economy, but diverted directly into the accounts of government officials.

De La Rue, which famously lodged a petulant appeal when it lost the contract to print the UK’s new blue “Brexit” passports, has been struggling for several years amid tough competition and perceived weak management.

Shareholders on Tuesday backed new chief executive strategy to rebuild the business.

The company is expected to roll out durable polymer banknotes and sophisticated authentication stamps for tax authorities on goods such as cigarettes, as well as anti-counterfeiting stickers on laptops and other devices.

It is also planning to double its capacity to print plastic banknotes better able to be cleaned to fight the coronavirus.

The plastic notes that are “washing machine-proof” are expected to replace paper notes around the world in the coming years as countries prefer their durability.

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