Australian stock exchange CEO quits amid bribe investigation

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2016 7:47 AM

SYDNEY (AP) — The head of Australia's main stock exchange resigned Monday amid an investigation into allegations that a gambling company he once ran made a bribery payment several years ago to the family of Cambodia's prime minister.

The resignation of Australian Securities Exchange CEO Elmer Funke Kupper is effective immediately, ASX chairman Rick Holliday-Smith said in a statement. Funke Kupper has denied any wrongdoing.

The resignation follows a report published last week by Australia's Fairfax newspapers regarding a 200,000 Australian dollar ($152,000) payment allegedly made by Australian gambling giant Tabcorp to a consulting company linked to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's family in 2010.

At the time, Funke Kupper was Tabcorp's CEO and the company was reportedly looking to launch an online gambling operation in Cambodia. Tabcorp would have needed permission from Hun Sen or his senior officials to obtain a Cambodian gambling license.

Funke Kupper, who has been CEO of the ASX since 2011, told Fairfax that he couldn't recall any such payment. But the Australian Federal Police has confirmed it is investigating whether Tabcorp violated any foreign bribery laws.

"The ASX Board accepted that Elmer wanted to direct his full focus to the investigations which may be made into the Tabcorp matter and not have them interfere with the important role of leading the ASX," Holliday-Smith said in the statement.

Funke Kupper did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the Australian Financial Review on Monday that he had done nothing wrong.

"I have not been told I am being investigated," he told the newspaper. "My job is to take control of the situation. I am not doing this because I have done anything wrong under the law."

In Cambodia, an assistant to Hun Sen, Seng Tieng, said he was unaware of any bribery case involving a gambling license.

"I, personally, have never heard this news," Seng Thieng said.

Last week, Tabcorp confirmed that it had explored a business opportunity with Cambodia in 2009, but said it ultimately chose not to pursue it.

Holliday-Smith said he will take over as executive chairman of the ASX until a new CEO is chosen.