The ABC has obtained evidence that the president of Nauru and his justice minister were allegedly bribed by an Australian phosphate dealer.President Baron Waqa allegedly received $60,000 while the justice minister David Adeang — Nauru’s most powerful politician — received $10,000 per month in 2009 and 2010.Other government MPs are also implicated in the scandal.
Leaked emails show Mr Adeang solicited an additional $665,000 in corrupt payments for himself and other Nauruan politicians from the Australian company, Getax.
Those transactions are being examined by the Australian Federal Police as part of a major foreign bribery investigation.
The emails reveal a plot to overthrow the Nauru government in 2010.
When Mr Adeang was in opposition in 2009 he told former Getax director Ashok Gupta: “We can create a new business relationship that can take this country to a higher level of development and of course taking also your business to even more success”.
Mr Adeang told Getax he had the support of a number of other MPs who were prepared to desert the government.
“We give you full authority to mobilise or lubricate the MPs to secure the vote and win the battle,” Mr Gupta replied.
Getax was already buying phosphate from Nauru at a bargain rate.
When the world price rose to almost $400 in 2008, Getax was paying as little as $43 per metric tonne.
In another leaked email, Mr Adeang suggested Getax could take over the island’s phosphate business entirely.
“It will not be easy,” Mr Adeang wrote.
“But as a business in the long term it may be ideal.”
Current Getax director, Amit Gupta, asked Mr Adeang to prepare a “full business proposal”.
A subsequent offer by Getax was rejected by the government.
Former president Sprent Dabwido said that privatising the island’s phosphate business would cripple Nauru financially.
“Offering to sell the whole phosphate industry,” Mr Dabwido said, “is close to treason if you ask me.”
“The only national asset we have that’s worth protecting he was offering to be sold, so [Mr Adeang] could get some $50,000, $70-000 for campaigning.”
‘Adeang calls the shots on Nauru’
After years of political instability, Mr Adeang and his supporters finally took control of Nauru’s parliament under president Baron Waqa in June 2013.
Mr Waqa was among a group of MPs who allegedly received two $30,000 bribes from Getax in 2010.
According to another leaked email the funds were for the “impending elections”.
In a separate email from July 2010, Mr Adeang complained that those who received the payments were “not focused enough on the work at hand” and were more interested in “shopping, horse-betting, the national airline refusing to transport all their cargo to Nauru, and other rubbish”.
Nauru’s police commissioner, former AFP officer Richard Britten, was suspended one month after the Waqa government came to power.
Mr Britten was investigating the bribery allegations when he was dismissed.
Dozens of other foreign officials working in Nauru have since been sacked by the government, deported or resigned.
A number of them have told the ABC that Nauru is now effectively a dictatorship.
Those who stir up so-called “political hatred” on the island now face the threat of seven years’ jail.
Facebook in Nauru was shut down last month, a move the president said was necessary to stop the spread of pornography.
Mr Adeang — who refuses to be interviewed by foreign media — claimed that the majority of Nauruans supported the ban.
“David Adeang calls the shots on Nauru,” said Roland Kun, one of five opposition MPs suspended from parliament indefinitely last year for criticising the government.
“A lot of the major decisions, especially decisions in regards to censorship and removal of particular individuals from Nauru, that’s all come from David.”
Wife’s death: police ‘scared of Mr Adeang’
Mr Adeang ordered the arrest and deportation of Nauru’s former resident magistrate Peter Law in January last year.
Before his arrest, Mr Law was preparing a coronial inquiry into the death of Mr Adeang’s wife.
Madelyn Adeang burned to death outside the family home in April 2013.
“It was put to me that it had been an accident,” Mr Law said.
“There were no crime scene photographs, there were no statements from neighbours.”
Mr Law said local police investigating the matter were “scared of Mr Adeang”.
Nauru’s former chief justice Geoffrey Eames, QC, was also concerned about the circumstances surrounding Madelyn Adeang’s death.
“The police obviously did not have the enthusiasm to conduct an inquiry,” said Mr Eames, who resigned last year after the government cancelled his visa.
“That’s a pretty alarming state of affairs.”
When asked whether Mr Adeang was ever interviewed by police, his Australian-based PR agent Lyall Mercer said: “How dare you ask questions like this. We will be making an official complaint to the ABC. Do not contact us again”.
Nauru government claims bribery allegations ‘ridiculous’
Mr Adeang did not respond to questions about the bribery allegations or the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death.
A Nauru government spokesman denied Mr Adeang or Mr Waqa had received bribes.
The allegations were “a slur on the character of our president and offensive to our nation”, the spokesman said.
“They are of no interest to the people of Australia as they are domestic issues of Nauru, and our president, parliament and country [are] not answerable to ABC Australia.
“The president has never received a cent from anyone connected with buying phosphate.”
Getax did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Nauru will receive an estimated $25.9 million in Australian aid in the next 12 months.
On top of that Nauru receives tens of millions of dollars each year to host Australia’s regional processing centre.
“The detention centre on Nauru is good for the economy,” said exiled MP Roland Kun.
“But all that is lost if the economic upside is mismanaged by the government of the day.”