[JURIST] Victims of Saddam Hussein's government filed a class action lawsuit against the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) [corporate website; JURIST news archive] and its US subsidiary in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], AWB officials said Friday. The suit alleges that AWB contributed to injuries and damages suffered by Iraqi citizens by giving substantial assistance to Hussein's government, relating to crimes perpetrated between 1996 and 2003. AWB has not yet been served the lawsuit, which also names France-based bank BNP Paribas [corporate website], but AWB has vowed to "vigorously defend" any legal challenge. The lawsuit is a result of a report released last year by the Cole Commission [official website], which concluded that AWB paid roughly $220 million in kickbacks to Hussein's former regime to secure $2.3 billion in grain contracts under the now-defunct UN oil-for-food program [JURIST news archive]. The Commission last year recommended that criminal charges be filed [CC materials; JURIST report] against 12 AWB executives.
AWB is facing other class action lawsuits relating to government kickbacks to the Hussein regime. Last year, several Iraqi citizens filed a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] against AWB and BNP under RICO [text], the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [DOJ materials] and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act [PDF text]. AAP has more.