CORRECTED: Two held in international swoop over Australia banknote firm

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Two men were arrested in raids by Australian, British and Spanish police over alleged corruption involving a banknote-making firm part-owned by Australia's central bank, officials said on Thursday.

British and Australian police said they carried out 15 coordinated swoops on Wednesday, with another two in Spain. Two men were arrested in Britain and are being questioned, Britain's Serious Fraud Office said.

"This action... involves the activities of employees and agents of Securency International PTY Ltd and their alleged corrupt role in securing international polymer banknote contracts," a statement said.

Melbourne-based Securency is embroiled in a long-running investigation over claims its agents offered bribes to officials in countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Nigeria to win contracts, according to media reports.

Australian police on Thursday confirmed raids in six areas in and around Melbourne and said they were part of a joint probe with British investigators.

Securency was not immediately available to comment while the Reserve Bank of Australia, the country's central bank, said it takes the allegations "very seriously" and "condemns corrupt behaviour of any kind".

Securency is a joint venture between the bank and Innovia Films, which helps design and produce plastic-style polymer banknotes known for their durability and for being hard to counterfeit.

The company's website says its banknotes have been issued in more than 30 countries around the world, from China to Zambia and Mexico.

Its managing director and company secretary were suspended last November as Australian police probed alleged bribery and kickbacks which reports say amounted to several million dollars.

© 2010 AFP

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