Australian intelligence agencies learn that the trucking company
AWB uses to distribute its wheat in Iraq,
Alia, is owned by Saddam’s government, thus breaching UN sanctions, via
assessments made by international spy agencies.
2000 – UN customs expert warns Australia’s UN mission in New York that the
Iraqi government is demanding around $US700,000 ($A930,230) from the Canadian
Wheat Board to cover suspect trucking fees in Iraq, and that AWB is already
paying such fees.
– Austrade commissioner Alistair Nicholas tells AWB chairman
Flugge and other AWB executives that a UN official has asked him “quietly/informally” about
payments AWB is making to Iraq.
March 2000 – Bronte Moules, from Australia’s permanent UN mission, sends the
UN’s request for information on the contract clause to DFAT.
AWB’s government relations
manager Andrew McConville writes in an email: “Trevor (Flugge) and
Andrew Lindberg in Canberra on
Wednesday and meeting with Bill Heffernan (Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary)
and also Opposition trade spokesman (Peter Cook).” The meeting is to discuss a number of issues related to AWB’s
valuable wheat trade with Iraq.
According to the same email, a meeting is scheduled for Flugge and
Lindberg to raise the same issues with Trade Minister Mark Vaile.
2000 – An email sent by BHP oil executive and founder of
Tigris Petroleum Norman
Davidson Kelly to AWB’s gun Middle East salesman, Charles Stott, says “it
was good to see you, Mark Vaile and Bob Bowker (a Foreign Affairs Middle East
specialist) in Melbourne
yesterday” – at a Melbourne conference on Middle East trade. It also says Tigris “enjoys the support of our friends at DFAT
[Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] who, as I told you, are
interested in the outcome of the discussions to recover the
September 2000 – Stott makes a diary note for 13 September pointing to an 8.30am meeting with Bowker.
October 2000 – A letter, signed by Stott, is faxed to DFAT’s Middle East and Africa branch referring to previous discussions Stott
had with DFAT about AWB’s plan to use a Jordanian trucking company to
distribute wheat in Iraq.
– The head of DFAT’s Middle East and Africa branch, Jane
Drake-Brockman, signs a reply letter to Stott giving AWB the go-ahead
to enter into a “commercial
arrangement” with an unnamed Jordanian trucking firm.
2002 – With Iraq
threatening to cut off Australian wheat imports, John Howard wrote to AWB head
Andrew Lindberg, telling him to keep him closely informed on the relations
between AWB and the Iraqi government. Howard wrote: “In view of the importance
of the matter, I suggest the government and AWB remain in close contact in
order that we can jointly attempt to achieve a satisfactory outcome in the
– Leading Victorian grain merchant Ray Brooks alerts then agriculture
minister Warren Truss to allegations by major international traders
that AWB is paying kickbacks breaching UN regulations during a meeting
at a Mallee farm
machinery exhibition, but is told to stop “peddling stories like that
February 2003 – In a
handwritten note, AWB lawyer Jessica Lyons says: “We cleared this with
Andrew Lindberg… memo prepared for him about how sensitive/political this
was and we will be informing Downer.” The email refers $2.5 million dollars in compensation paid to
the Iraqis for wheat they said was contaminated by iron filings.
2003 – A memo from the Coalition Provisional
Authority asking an AWB employee to clarify which contracts contained
kickbacks and which ones didn’t is forwarded to DFAT by email and fax ten days after the start of the Iraq War.
– The UN tells the wheat exporter to cut its fee by $28 million
from two contracts worth $300 million. The AWB tells the
Howard Government about the 10% price cut, but don’t relate it to the
10% amount they have been warned Saddam Hussein orders from his
suppliers under the oil-for-food
program to include for his benefit.
2003 – Australian Treasury officials working on the Iraqi budget forward
concerns about the details of the oil-for-food kickbacks under the old regime
to DFAT and Australia’s
aid agency AusAID, stating that before the US
invasion a 10% surcharge was added onto any oil-for-food contract.
March 2004 – DFAT
officer Zena Armstrong writes a ministerial submission about AWB’s links to trucking
firm Alia to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Trade Minister Mark Vaile, after
AWB told her it had paid a Jordanian trucking company that might have handed
money on to the Iraqi dictator’s regime.
Vaile signs his
version of the submission, while Downer writes on his: “This worries me. How
were AWB prices set and who set them? I want to know about this.”
– The federal government controlled Wheat Export Authority is tipped off that
AWB might be paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s
2004 – AWB denies any wrongdoing when
grilled by the WEA, saying Iraq sales are made under “unique circumstances”. The WEA
clears the AWB over kickback allegations in a secret report to then agriculture
minister Warren Truss.
2004 – Australian US Ambassador Michael Thawley convinces US Republican
Senator Norm Coleman to drop his committee’s investigation into the AWB
allegations, convincing the Senator
that they were “simply the smear
tactics of a rogue journalist and perhaps an insidious trick by a
US wheat marketing association”.
February 2005 – UN oil-for-food investigator Paul Volcker complains to Australia’s
ambassador to the UN John Dauth, at a meeting, that the Howard Government is
not providing sufficient co-operation, and that its approach is “beyond
reticent, even forbidding”.
Alexander Downer is briefed on allegations that AWB may have been
money to Saddam Hussein’s regime through a bogus Jordanian-based
company at a meeting with UN oil-for-food investigator Paul Volcker in New
2006 – Former ASIS intelligence officer
and Middle East veteran Warren Reid tells ABC radio
“it’s absolutely impossible that they didn’t know… In fact, if you look at
the core part of the governmental system in Canberra, Foreign Affairs, Defence,
even eavesdropping, the whole intelligence apparatus, that’s geared to knowing