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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Corruption Down Under

The Australian Wheat Board paid millions of dollars in bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime, some of which apparently went to finance the payments that Hussein made to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, according to a report at FrontPage Magazine.com.


During the ongoing Cole Inquiry in Australia, AWB managing director, Andrew Lindberg was asked 12 times whether he agreed to deceive the UN by inflating the cost of wheat exported to Iraq. At the eleventh hour on the twelfth question, he replied, "We had to, we had to, we had no option."

According to evidence produced during the Inquiry, AWB paid bribes to corrupt Iraqi officials and wrote memos that it would "tell the Australian Government about the deal at the appropriate time". It allegedly added a $2 million bribe to the price of one shipment of wheat just months before Australian troops deployed to Iraq.

Lindberg told the Inquiry that Iraqi Trade Minister, Mohammed Medhi-Saleh had threatened to leave Australian wheat stranded in the port of Umm Qasr unless AWB paid the bribe. In the official version the trade minister had claimed the wheat was contaminated with iron ore and would cost $2 million to clean.

The Inquiry – which grows more scandalous each day – includes allegations that wheat marketer AWB profited from the $290 million in bribes it paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Documents have been produced that show a 10 percent fee charged by the Iraqis included a plan to extract money from the foreign exchange margin if the company paid the bribe in German franks. Lindberg admitted this had occurred and that AWB had profited from the Iraqi bribes. This fee was charged in addition to the existing kickback for Jordanian trucking services that were never provided. A report, produced at the Inquiry by two senior AWB executives, stated that the fees were a mechanism for “extracting more dollars from the (UN's) escrow account.”

While it simultaneously deceived the UN by secretly inflating its prices and breaching UN sanctions, the Inquiry is also investigating a paper trail that details how AWB apparently tricked the UN to retrieve a multimillion dollar debt owed by oil company BHP.

And, if AWB isn’t dirty enough, there is evidence to suggest the money paid in bribes to the Iraqi regime was used to finance a $10 million slush fund for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. The Australian claimed “US Government and CIA documents revealed a trail of blood money flowing from companies now known to have taken bribes into bank accounts in Jordan.” These accounts, it claims, were emptied each evening into Iraqi Government accounts” – which were used for its international transactions – including payments of $25,000 rewards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Read it all.


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