Charity sues CommBank for $2.5m related to IT bribery case

Charity sues CommBank for $2.5m related to IT bribery case

A US-based charity is suing Commonwealth Bank of Australia seeking the return of $2.5 million that Oz cops say was used to bribe two former CBA IT executives.

In a suit filed in California demanding a jury trial, the ACE Foundation - which uses technology to tackle humanitarian causes in the developing world - says $2.53 million of its money is being wrongfully held in Australia.

The contested funds are being held as part of a New South Wales police investigation into alleged bribery of CBA executives that saw tech firm ServiceMesh win a major contract with the bank in 2013, shortly before being acquired for $260 million by CSC.

ACE was set up last year thanks to a major donation from ServiceMesh's founder Eric Pulier. Police allege that the non-profit was used to funnel the bribes to the IT executives, Keith Hunter and Jon Waldron.

In its suit, ACE says that it engaged the two men as consultants and that most of the money that they put into the men's bank accounts were to cover project costs. Says a statement: "The foundation's suit rebuts allegations that ACE's engagement with two CBA IT employees was meant to be hidden from CBA, or was part of a secret plot in years past to win corrupt contracts for a bank vendor."

The foundation insists that it is run by founder Andrew Goldstein, has an independent board of directors and that Pulier had no role in its running.

According to the suit, late last year CBA decided it did not approve of Hunter and Waldron working with ACE and the men agreed to end their relationship with the charity and return its money.

"CBA threatened to sue Waldron and Hunter if they returned ACE's money. When Hunter informed CBA that he was returning ACE's money to ACE, CBA made false allegations to the Australian police that the payments were illegal secret payments, even though the payments were made into accounts at CBA," says ACE.

Meanwhile, Pulier is facing his own suit, with CSC suing him for more than $100 million for "fraud, breach of contract, and breach of the duty of loyalty".

CommBank has declined to comment with legal proceedings pending.

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