Australian central bank board member resigns amid furor over tax dealings

Businessman Robert Gerard has resigned from the board of Australia's central bank over a political furor involving his company's tax dealings, according to a statement released by his lawyer Friday.

"This week has been aimed at destroying my reputation and damaging the government," Gerard said in the statement. The government has been under attack in Parliament his week over Gerard's appointment to the bank's board in 2003.

Gerard, a major donor to the ruling Liberal Party, was appointed to the bank's board despite his company's involvement in a major dispute with the tax office.

He said he was only asked to guarantee that his "personal" tax affairs were in order before joining the board, and not his business affairs. But a copy of the declaration, released Thursday night by Treasurer Peter Costello, shows that a much broader disclosure of all private affairs was required, including information that could embarrass the Reserve Bank.

The opposition accused Costello of using Gerard as a scapegoat to deflect criticism that the government knew about the businessman's background when he was appointed to the board, the AP reported. Earlier Friday, Prime Minister John Howard ruled out tightening checks on prospective board members, saying that could stop many qualified people from joining. A.M.

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