Commission Finds Australian Wheat Company Guilty of Corruption

AWB deliberately deceived the U.N. in paying over $224 million to Saddam Hussein's government between 1999 and 2003, a high-level Australian commission says.

A high-level Australian commission released a report Monday declaring that AWB, a major Australian wheat company, carried out a scheme to deliberately deceive the U.N. while paying Saddam Hussein's government over $224 million in bribes and kickbacks.

The commission was investigating corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program, which was intended to allow Iraqis to exchange some oil for food and other important products while the government would be further isolated under continued sanctions. However, AWB and the Iraqi government were able to use the program for their own profit.

The commission, led by retired supreme court justice Terence Cole, spent nearly a year compiling the five-volume report, hearing testimony from 70 officials and looking at over 1,500 documents.

In his conclusion, Cole says that AWB's monopoly on wheat exports in Australia led to a "lack of culture of ethical dealing."

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the incoming chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, plans to hold hearings on AWB's wheat contracts in Iraq after he takes up his post in January.

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