- 1996, Food-for-oil program established
- 1997 to March 2003: AWB sold 12 million tonnes of grain worth $3 billion under the
oil-for-food program between 1997 and the invasion of Iraq by
coalition troops in March 2003. (The Age)
- 1 July, 1999 – AWB transformed into a private company. Floated on the ASX
- 2000: The Canadians complained to the UN that
AWB had made arrangements for direct payments to Iraq of a kind that
the UN was telling the Canadian government were illegal.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd says this is when the
Government received a formal warning from the United Nations about
- 2000: AWB chief Andrew Lindberg got a warning from Arthur
Anderson that payments to the trucking co. linked to Hussein’s regime
were a “red flag” about the wheat exporter’s integrity and a breach of
- 2001: Lindberg saw a fax spelling out the extra costs to the AWB of trucking wheat shipments into Iraq
- 2002: Mr Lindberg attended meeting in Baghdad with the Iraqi Minister
- Lindberg admitted making a deal with Iraq that turned
out to be a breach of United Nations sanctions. The deal, demanded by
the Iraqi government in 2002, was to extract $US2 million from AWB to
compensate for wheat shipments the Iraqi Grain Board claimed was
contaminated. (The Addie)
- 2003: The AWB Chief Executive Andrew Lindberg’s told the inquiry he discussed
Iraqi wheat with the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in 2003. He says
he met Mr Downer a number of times and may have discussed business in
Iraq, but not specific contracts.
- February 2003: A memo indicated that AWB chief executive,
Andrew Lindberg, was supposed to personally inform the Howard
Government of a scheme to funnel the secret rebate through an Iraqi
front company in Jordan, called Alia.
- May 6, 2003: Internal AWB memo prepared by two senior managers which read, in part: “Tigris
Petroleum (BHP) has asked for an update of status of their agreement in
light of current contract execution and when they will begin receiving
payments. They intimated a number of influential people will need to
start receiving funds and that further delays may cause difficulties
- 2004: Lindberg concedes he misled the UN and his own board
about the nature of the $US7 million payment made to oil co. Tigris
- Mr Lindberg’s statement said AWB accepted claims by Iraqi
authorities that the UN had approved the payments. No independent
corroboration was sought from the UN and AWB now accepts “it would
have been better to have sought confirmation directly from the UN”.
These fees “increased over time and from 2001 (Iraqi officials)
imposed an additional 10 per cent service fee on the whole contract
AWB’s managing director, Andrew
Lindberg, was repeatedly questioned about a report prepared by two
senior managers for an AWB executive meeting in May 2003 discussing
BHP’s joint venture partner, Tigris Petroleum, which was described
as a lobbyist in Iraq.
Under the heading Tigris Commission, the document stated that
“Tigris Petroleum (BHP)” wanted to know when it would start
receiving payments from AWB and noted, “They intimated that a
number of influential people will need to start receiving funds and
that further delays may cause difficulties going forward.”
Other info: The Oil-for-Food program UN resolution 986 was passed on 14 April 1995 and ran from late 1996 until 20 March 2003.
October 11 2002 – The US Congress passes a resolution allowing the United States, at the request of the president, to
invade Iraq if Saddam Hussein did not give up his
weapons of mass destruction.
November 8 2002– UN passes a resolution calling for unfettered
access to search for weapons of mass destruction within Iraq.
July 23 2002 – Alexander Downer says he can’ confirm
the reports that Iraq have threatened to restrict Australian wheat supplies.
“Let me just say we can’t confirm the comments that have
been reported this morning, by the Iraqi Trade Minister, that there’s to be any
reduction in Australia’s wheat exports to Iraq. But our position simply remains
the same, we don’t support policies of appeasement.”
July 24 2002 – Vaile interview on Australian wheat
“The Iraqi’s have indicated that they’ve proposed to put on
hold a further ender for five hundred thousand tonnes. Now, as I say, we’ve
called in and spoken to the Iraqi Charge here in Canberra.
The Australian Wheat Board has had some of their people in Iraq,
talking to the people there about continuing this trade.”
Feb 23 2003 – Trade Minister Mark Vaile announces AWB
has resumed trading with Iraq. Downer interview with Oaks:
“No, not at all. I mean, we have a – two orders, as I
understand it, of 500,000 tonnes with Iraq.
And they are orders under the United Nations oil for food program. They are in
the process of fulfilling the first of those orders. The resources aren’t
available yet to fulfil the second of them – the second 500,000 tonnes.
But look, there’s no doubt about it, over the last 12 months the Iraqis
have done various interviews and made various statements on the wheat trade,
contradictory statements as they may be, in order to try to play into domestic
politics on this issue. But look, at the end of the day we won’t be
changing our policies, as I said last year, on the basis of threats, or for
that matter in this case it’s a carrot being offered by the regime of Saddam
Hussein. Look, Saddam Hussein’s regime is in breach of Security Council
resolutions. There are certain obligations they have to the international
community, and coming to us with carrots and sticks over the wheat trade won’t
make any difference to our position. Nor should it. “
Feb 25 2003 – Trade Minister Mark Vaile speech to
Grain Growers Association where speaks about AWB once again selling Australian
wheat to the Iraqi Government.
There has been a lot of uncertainty created by Iraq’s
threat last June to reduce wheat imports from Australia,
and then the alleged offer of new contracts, publicised over the weekend.
Attempts by the Iraqi regime to manipulate public opinion in
Australia – in
this way, should be seen for what it is.
I’d like to put the debate over our wheat trade with Iraq
has been a reliable and long-standing supplier of quality wheat to Iraq,
including in times of political difference and actual military hostilities.
We recognise the need to ensure a reliable food supply to
the Iraqi people, notwithstanding our differences with Saddam’s regime.
We were disappointed by the Iraqi threats last year to
reduce their wheat imports from Australia.
The Iraqi Government has announced it will resume normal
trade with AWB; I am waiting to hear just what is meant by this.
If this results in further contracts then that is a good
thing for AWB and wheat growers.
But whatever they do, either doubling or halving wheat sales
or both – they will not change the policy of Australia
towards the Iraqi Government.
The facts are these.
had a bumper wheat harvest in 2001, estimated by the UN at around 2.1 million
tonnes – compared to 600,000 tonnes of wheat in 2000, thus they could probably
get away with buying less wheat than usual.
AWB Ltd signed a new contract for wheat last June, under the
UN’s Oil-for-Food program.
And, in December, AWB Ltd announced that it had secured
Our wheat trade with Iraq
– given the current circumstance of global political tensions and a difficult
production and trading environment for grain growers – continues.
AWB Ltd has a number of shipments in the UN Oil for Food
pipeline – and the Government will be working to make sure our wheat trade
continues no matter what happens in Iraq.
March 20 2003– The
States, Great Britain, Australia and a coalition of other countries invade Iraq
31 March 2003 – Downer press conference following the Iraq invasion
QUESTION: Will Australia
be lobbying the US
to maintain a wheat market as pre-war Iraq?
Well, we definitely want to maintain – not only maintain – markets that
we’ve had in the past although we accept that all markets have to be obtained
and maintained on commercial grounds, but we don’t want any markets taken away
from us by uncommercial activity.
And, secondly, we believe there are good opportunities for Australia
in terms of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq,
particularly after so many years of authoritarian rule and UN sanctions and of
course several wars, not just the current one.
So there’ll be a lot of work to do.
I know American companies are well positioned to get a
number of contracts but I think Australian companies will be well positioned
too, and certainly we’ll be discussing those commercial issues during my visit.
April 4 2003 –Another Downer interview
“But we do have a number of other wheat contracts, which
have been entered into by the UN – an oil-for-food program. So we’ll be continuing to export wheat to Iraq.”
March 2 2004 – UN
releases a report concluding that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction after
Iraq and Wheat Timeline
The Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nation’s
Oil-for-Food Programme—known to most as the Volcker committee for its chair,
Paul Volcker— issued its first Interim Report on February 3, 2005.
rejected shipments of Australian wheat in August 2002 claiming
they were contaminated by iron filings.
In late 2002, the Department of Foreign
Affairs told AWB it had only two ways to repay a multi-million dollar penalty
for contaminated wheat without breaching UN sanctions on Iraq.
A later memo in February 2003 indicated the
AWB chief executive, Andrew Lindberg, was supposed to personally inform the
Howard Government of a scheme to funnel the secret rebate through an Iraqi
front company in Jordan,
In January 2000 the Government was
explicitly warned by the UN of concerns about exactly what the AWB was up to in
Iraq. The UN
called in the Australian Government to query the AWB’s use of “Jordanian bank
accounts” for the payment of “internal transport fees”. The Australian
Government’s response was to simply dismiss these concerns out of hand – a
further act of culpable negligence.
In October 2000 the AWB wrote to the
Government asking for explicit, written endorsement of its proposal to engage
Jordanian trucking companies to provide internal transport of Australian wheat
Despite the warnings by the UN nine months earlier, the Howard Government
assured the AWB that the proposed arrangement “would not be in violation of UN
sanctions against Iraq”.
This unqualified green light legitimised the transfer of $300 million to Saddam
– a transfer that continued right up to the eve of the war John Howard took us
to in Iraq.
It is therefore difficult to understand why alarm bells
didn’t start ringing when the freight costs suddenly escalated from $US10 per
metric tonne to $US56 per metric tonne in 2000/2001 – a 500
per cent increase.
in April 2002, while Aussie cash was still
flowing into the regime’s coffers, and Howard was preparing Australia
for war against the very same regime
Two former Australian Wheat Board employees have told the Fairfax
press that the wheat board paid millions of dollars in bribes to secure
contracts in Indonesia,
Pakistan and Yemen,
and that this went on while the exporter was still under Government control in