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Last updated on August 9th, 2017 at 06:47 am
Intriguing details emerge from an inquiry into Australian oil-for-food deals:
The managing director of Australian wheat exporter AWB has admitted making a deal with Iraq that turned out to be a clear breach of UN sanctions and masked an elaborate scheme of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s government.
It took an hour of questioning for Andrew Lindberg to tell an official inquiry he agreed to the deal during a pre-war dash to Baghdad in August 2002 aimed at shoring up wheat sales for the prized market.
Be interesting to see what comes of this:
The inquiry also heard that the board had regular contact with the Australian government, specifically with the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, over the deals.
Andrew Lindberg, AWB managing director, said that he had met Mr Downer several times but could not remember discussing the company’s contracts in Iraq.
In other government news: Costello is a commie!
UPDATE. The Australian’s Caroline Overington writes that John Howard’s attempt to quarantine his government from the scandal has failed spectacularly:
The Prime Minister commissioned the Cole inquiry after a UN report into the corrupt program revealed that AWB, Australia’s monopoly wheat exporter, was the largest single supplier of illicit funds to the Iraq regime.
He drew the terms of reference tightly so that only the role played by the three private companies mentioned in the UN’s Volcker report—and not the Government—would be investigated.
But Lindberg’s testimony, although evasive, nonetheless implicates the government (to what degree, we’re yet to discover):
Mr Agius asked Mr Lindberg, during seven hours of testimony, whether he had met Mr Downer. “Mr Lindberg, did you not meet with Minister Downer on the very issue of the allegations that were being made about AWB’s contractual relationship with the IGB (Iraqi Grains Board)?”
Mr Lindberg replied: “I met with Minister Downer on a number of occasions but not specifically. I mean the questions of our business in Iraq may have been discussed but not specifically about individual contracts.”
UPDATE II. Former trade minister Mark Vaile this month denied that the government knew of any wheat kickbacks. Kevin Rudd claims that Vaile, John Howard, and Alexander Downer were warned about the nature of the deals five years ago.
UPDATE III. Dean McAskil: “As a strong Howard/Downer supporter, if any are shown to be complicit then they deserve to be condemned and thrown out of office.” Quite so.
UPDATE IV. From The Age:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will hand over documents, emails, diplomatic cables and other records if it is asked to by the Cole inquiry investigating AWB’s allegedly corrupt wheat deals with Iraq.
UPDATE V. John Quiggin predicts:
Endless hair-splitting defences of the government’s actions in this matter will emerge from those who have previously made a loud noise about Oil for Food.
That’s quite a line from John, who previously was dismissive of the oil-for-food scandal. Now he’s screaming for ministers to be fired.
UPDATE VI. “I’m with Dean,” writes Bastards Inc. “If found to be complicit, then sacked, charged, hopefully, jailed.”
UPDATE VII. Marian Wilkinson, who opposed the war in Iraq, now declares that Saddam’s regime was corrupt and dangerous:
Yesterday the Opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, said that Downer needed to assure the public that when he appointed Flugge “he had no concerns about AWB’s previous conduct in Iraq”.
But if Downer can give that assurance it raises the question: how did the combined resources of his department and Australia’s intelligence agencies fail to notice that AWB was deceiving and manipulating the UN, repeatedly violating sanctions and paying massive kickbacks to a corrupt and dangerous dictatorship in Iraq?