Australian Wheat Monopoly to Split

AWB, the Australian monopoly wheat exporter mired in a bribery scandal, will become two separate companies.

Australia's AWB, the monopoly wheat exporter that has been caught in a serious bribery scandal, announced Wednesday that it will split into two separate companies. AWB chairman Brendan Stewart also told the Australian Stock Exchange that he would step down after the split.

An Australian commission recently released an extensive report finding that AWB paid between $200 and $300 million in bribes and kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime between 1999 and 2003. AWB took advantage of the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq while deliberately deceiving the U.N., the report found.

Stewart expresses regret for the company's actions and says the company's board is "committed to making significant changes to ensure it doesn't happen again."

With the move, AWB will separate the 'single desk' wheat marketing system from the publicly traded grain trading, banking and Landmark farm operations.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard had said he would recommend on Dec. 5 whether or not Australia should abandon its monopoly export system, leading some to call AWB's split a pre-emptive move.

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