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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 06:14 GMT
AWB chief quits over Iraq probe
Former Managing Director of the Australian Wheat Board, Andrew Lindberg, leaves a government inquiry in Sydney, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006.
Andrew Lindberg is the first casualty of the AWB probe
The head of an Australian firm accused of paying bribes to the former Iraqi regime has announced his resignation.

Andrew Lindberg was managing director of the Australian wheat exporter AWB.

An inquiry is currently investigating claims that the firm paid more than $200m to Saddam Hussein's regime, as part of the UN oil-for-food programme.

AWB denies any wrongdoing, but an earlier investigation by the UN said it should have known the money was going into the pockets of Iraqi ministers.

The allegations have provoked an uproar in Australia, with opposition claims - which the government has denied - that it knew about the kickbacks allegedly paid to Iraq.

Largest supplier

Mr Lindberg's resignation - effective from April - is the first since the inquiry into AWB's deals in Iraq began last month in Sydney.

"The board thanks Mr Lindberg for his contribution to the company, and for making this decision, believing that it is in the best interests of the company," AWB said in a statement on Wednesday.

An Australian media frenzy must be a horrible thing to be the subject of
The Australian's foreign editor

The firm was the largest single supplier of humanitarian goods under the UN-sponsored oil-for-food programme in Iraq between 1996 and 2003, which allowed the Iraqis to sell oil and import food and medicine despite being under sanctions.

At the time AWB was the government wheat board, but it is now a privately listed company.

The inquiry was established by Prime Minister John Howard after a UN report in 2004 named a long list of companies it claimed paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime.

AWB executives say they were duped into believing that fees paid to Baghdad were meant to cover the costs of transporting grain.

But a UN investigation said they should have realised what was actually going on.

The Australian inquiry is trying to determine if AWB broke any national laws in its oil-for-food dealings.

The investigators are due to report their findings in late March.




SEE ALSO:
Media 'frenzy' over wheat scandal
09 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia PM denies kickback link
30 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian wheat scandal widens
18 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia firm 'knew of kickbacks'
17 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Oil-for-food scandal
07 Sep 05 |  Middle East
Iraq scandal taints 2,000 firms
27 Oct 05 |  Americas


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