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Security firm embroiled in scandal

Saturday 9 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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AUSTRALIA – Wilson Security faces renewed questions about its fitness as security contractor in Australia’s offshore detention centres in light of its corporate links to a tax haven – a corruption scandal that has embroiled its Hong Kong owners and allegations that hundreds of staff have been underpaid.

Wilson is considering legal action to stop former staff speaking out against the company, which managers fear is jeopardising its prospects of winning a new nine-year contract at the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres.

Guardian Australia has revealed a corporate trail that links Wilson Security to its ultimate owners, the Kwok family in Hong Kong, a key member of whom was jailed in December as part of the territory’s highest-profile graft case.

Thomas Kwok was sentenced to five years for conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office for giving $5 million in bribes to a Hong Kong government official in return for favourable treatment of the Kwok family-controlled Sun Hung Kai Properties, a $62 billion company.

His brother Raymond, a founding director of Wilson’s Australian parent company, was also charged but found not guilty.

Wilson Security, whose security contract for Manus Island and Nauru expires next month, is privately owned by the Kwok family through a corporate structure that includes companies in the British Virgin Islands, a recognised tax haven.

The use of tax havens to minimise company tax in Australia is the focus of a federal Senate inquiry due to report in November, while the issue globally was among the pressing topics raised at the G20 world leaders summit in Brisbane last year.

United Voice, the union representing security guards, has revealed it is pursuing $669,255 in wages allegedly owed by Wilson to 205 detention centre staff.

Sue Lines, the Labor senator for Western Australia and a former official with the union, told Guardian Australia the company should be “ruled out immediately” from the government contracts.

“If the government appoints Wilson again, it just shows there are no thorough processes and they’re prepared to appoint a company which has got very serious concerns around how it operates,” Lines said.

“To allow these multinational corporations, which seemingly abide by the law but use whatever tax havens there are to take their money offshore and limit their tax here – particularly when a company is contracting to the Australian government and being paid handsomely for its services – is just not right.”

An internal company email seen by Guardian Australia reveals Wilson is weighing up legal action against former staff in the wake of negative publicity.

A former “behaviour management” section employee, Chenoah Rose, last week accused Wilson of failing to take seriously her claims of sexual harassment by a direct supervisor on Nauru who was later promoted. - Guardian