“Senior AWB executives knew the company was paying illegal kickbacks to
Saddam Hussein’s regime, and even discussed hiding the cash in a ‘very
large suitcase’, according to evidence presented on the opening day of
an inquiry into the scandal,” The Australianreports today .

And it appears that Wheat Board shareholders – mainly just ordinary ol’ wheat farmers – are paying for some very pricey legal brains.
An indemnity insurance policy looks after current and former director’s
bills, but the AWB will pick up the tab for other past and serving
staff – unless they’re found guilty.

Just to add a bit more colour, BHP was dragged into
the scandal in evidence presented yesterday. It is alleged that the
company unaccountably decided in 1995 that it wanted to provide on
credit $US5million worth of wheat to Iraq.

Yesterday was the first day of the inquiry – a pretty spectacular start
– but even at this stage it’s worth asking what will change if the
allegations of impropriety are upheld. They’ll be sheeted home to
individuals, not the monolith monopoly marketing agency. Political
pressure will surely guarantee that.

After all, we all know the National Party’s horror of free enterprise.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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