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Australia to strengthen bribery laws after oil-for-food scandal

[JURIST] Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock said Thursday that the government plans to strengthen foreign bribery laws after a government commission concluded that the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) corporate website] paid roughly $220 million in kickbacks to Saddam 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 Cole Commission [official website] last year recommended that criminal charges be filed [CC materials; JURIST report] against 12 AWB executives, and also urged several changes to Australian law [recommendations summary].

The government tabled its response [text] to the Cole Commission recommendations in Parliament Thursday. According to a press release [text] from Ruddock's office, the government plans to introduce legislation:

  • requiring applicants for licenses to import or export under United Nations sanctions to provide information to the Government; criminal penalties will apply for giving false or misleading information;
  • creating a new offence for breaching UN sanctions;
  • giving Government agencies the power to obtain evidence about suspected evasion of sanctions so they can be referred to law enforcement agencies;
  • strengthening laws aimed at bribery of foreign officials; and
  • making tax laws consistent with foreign bribery laws
  • Those convicted of breaching bribery laws could face a maximum 10-year jail sentence and a fine of up to three times the amount of the offending transaction. Australia's ABC News has more.

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