[JURIST] A document released to an Australian commission [Cole Commission official website] set up [JURIST report] to investigate alleged Australian connections to the oil-for-food scandal [JURIST news archive] Tuesday shows that Saddam Hussein personally assisted the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) [corporate website] in grain distribution in Iraq while it was supposedly paying his government kickbacks. The document, written by former AWB executive Dominic Hogan, describes a meeting between Saddam Hussein and Alia, a Jordanian transport company regarding delays of AWB shipments in Iraqi ports. AWB has denied knowing of any kickbacks, maintaining that they believed cash was paid to Alia, 49 percent of which was owned by the Iraqi government, to cover transport of the wheat inside Iraq.
The scandal dominated the Australian parliament's first meeting of the year Tuesday in which Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] denied the government's knowledge of any wrongdoing; he maintained it was the UN's role to oversee value and prices, not the Australian government. Late last week Howard publicly demanded an apology [JURIST report] from US Senator Norm Coleman for accusing the Australian government of participating in illegal bribes to Hussein's regime. Read an AWB statement [text] on the proceedings of the Australian Commission of Inquiry, which is scheduled to issue its report on March 31. AFP has more. The Australian has local coverage, plus a late report that according to another Commission document, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Mark Valle met with two executives linked to illegal kickbacks. Valle has insisted no such meeting took place.