IRAQ: Wheat Executives 'Helped Key Iraq Official'

Australian executives used their positions as government-appointed advisers in Iraq to ensure the post-war survival of one of dictator Saddam Hussein's top trade officials.
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News.com.au

AWB executives used their positions as government-appointed advisers in Iraq to ensure the post-war survival of one of dictator Saddam Hussein's top trade officials.
The damning claims made yesterday suggests AWB's former chairman Trevor Flugge had a hand in the Iraqi official winning a Trade Ministry job.

The Cole inquiry investigating $300 million in illicit payments to Saddam's government by the wheat exporter yesterday also revealed AWB claimed the kickbacks as a tax deduction.

But in the first evidence on Mr Flugge's activities as a high-level adviser in Iraq - for which he was paid $679,000 by the Australian Government - documents revealed he and AWB marketing chief Michael Long helped ensure a key Iraqi wheat official who was complicit in the kickbacks kept his government job.

An internal AWB report in June 2003 said the men had secured the trade ministry job for Iraq Grain Board director Yousif Abdul Rahman after Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority purged the interim government of Saddam loyalists.

Mr Yousif headed the grain board for much of the time that AWB paid hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks to Iraq under the UN's corruption-riddled oil-for-food program.

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In Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister John Howard defended his decision to include AWB executives on an emergency dash to Baghdad to salvage Australian wheat exports to Iraq.

The Iraq Grain Board has suspended dealings with AWB - locking Australian farmers out of a one million tonne tender - pending the outcome of the Cole inquiry.

AWB chairman Brendan Stewart is going on a top-level mission to Iraq.

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