Allegations by US lobby group, the US Wheat Associates, that AWB has illegally paid money to Saddam Hussein’s family were described as baseless and outrageous today by AWB Limited Managing Director, Andrew Lindberg.
The accusations were made in a letter from the US Wheat Associates to the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, which alleged Australian wheat was being sold to Iraq at inflated prices, and that money had been underhandedly paid to the Hussein family.
"These comments are absurd, with no foundation, and are an insult to Australian wheat farmers and damaging to our reputation," Mr Lindberg said. "We are currently investigating our legal options," Mr Lindberg said.
"We are calling for the US Wheat Associates to retract their comments, and have had discussions with the Australian Federal Government who have also expressed their concern at the accusations.
"The US Wheat Associates themselves have admitted they have no proof of this ever occurring, so these comments seem to be an act of desperation on their behalf.
"All our contracts have been approved and executed through the United Nations’ Oil-For-Food program, and have been totally transparent and above board," Mr Lindberg said.
Mr Lindberg said AWB had been supplying wheat to Iraq for more than 50 years, and had earned its market share based on a high quality product, strong customer relationships, and a high level of service.
"We are more than happy to compete with US wheat in a free market on a level playing field, but that will mean the US will have to match their rhetoric and only allow unsubsidised wheat to be marketed," Mr Lindberg said.
Mr Lindberg said the prices AWB negotiated with Iraq were commercially confidential. However, the price not only includes delivery to Umm Qasr, but also insurance, on-ground distribution to all governates of Iraq and ongoing technical support.
"The US Wheat Associates obviously have no understanding of the current Iraqi market," Mr Lindberg said.
"We have existing contracts with Iraq which were struck on commercial grounds prior to the recent hostilities, and we certainly believe that it is fair and reasonable that these contracts be honoured," Mr Lindberg said.