AWB bribery class action calls for Australian government papers

In a pre-trial debate, AWB has stated that it does not consider “transport fees” paid to a Jordanian transport company, which had close connections to the Iraqi government, to be a bribe. The Age has reported that the pre-trial debate focused on whether the Office of National Assessments was entitled to avoid producing documents to the court on national security grounds. AWB’s lawyers told the court that its defence would include proving that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade knew that ”transport fees” were going to the Iraqi Government despite UN sanctions.

Wheat farmers who held AWB shares are pursuing a A$100m class action suit alleging that they suffered losses when the Cole Commission exposed the payments. They claim no damage would have occurred if AWB had not kept the nature of the payments secret because ministerial permission for its shipments to Iraq would not have been given. The investors are expected to call senior Australian government officials as well as executives of both the Jordanian company and of AWB when the class action commences in November.

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