AWB admits it knew fees went to Saddam’s Iraq

Susannah Moran; 11/2/10

AWB has admitted for the first time it knew it was paying “transport fees” that would end up with Saddam Hussein’s regime. However, the company denies this was in breach of UN sanctions and says the UN and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade knew it had to pay the fees as part of its contract with the Grain Board of Iraq. The grains exporter also made a bold prediction that shareholders would fail in a $100 million class action that began yesterday, because the Australian courts aren’t allowed to rule on issues of public international law where it relates to the conduct of the UN, the Australian government or the Iraqi regime.The long-awaited class action began yesterday in Sydney in the Federal Court before judge Lindsay Foster, with lawyers for the shareholders opening their case against AWB. John and Kaye Watson, retired wheat farmers, are leading the class action on behalf of about 1000 investors.