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US, UK knew of oil-for-food kickbacks, Australia inquiry told

[JURIST] The United States and British governments knew about illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq over four years ago, an Australian judicial inquiry [JURIST report] into the UN oil-for-food program [JURIST news archive] was told Friday. During Friday's hearing [PDF transcript], a statement from Michael Wallbanks, manager of the Dubai branch of shipping group P&O Nedlloyd Ltd. [corporate website], was read. According to Wallbanks, the company gave information to the US and Britain about a 10 percent demand in kickbacks by the Iraqi government. Wallbanks also said that anyone involved in shipping goods to Iraq from August or September 2001 would be aware of the kickbacks.

The Cole Commission was appointed in November to investigate whether Australian companies allegedly involved in the oil-for-food scandal broke any laws. The inquiry has so far focused on the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) [corporate website], which allegedly paid $222 million in kickbacks to Iraq. AWB was the largest exporter in the oil-for-food program, and officials have adamantly denied any knowledge of the kickbacks which were disguised as transport fees. Reuters has more.

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