The Board and management of AWB welcomes the finding of the IIC that AWB was not knowingly involved in schemes implemented by the former Iraqi regime to circumvent the UN Oil for Food Program.
Notwithstanding, the thorough and rigorous investigation conducted by the IIC, it has not found that AWB knew of the matters now alleged. This has confirmed AWB’s position.
AWB has consistently maintained its position that it did not know, and could not know, what Alia did with the money AWB paid to it by way of transport fees.
AWB sold wheat in accordance with the UN guidelines. All AWB contracts, including those with an inland transport component, were approved by the UN.
Throughout the OFF Program AWB operated in the belief that Alia was a genuine transport company providing an effective service. We paid for a trucking service and clearly the wheat was delivered the hundreds of kilometres from port to inland Iraq.
We were surprised to learn of the fact that Alia did not provide a trucking service.
Alia gave all the appearances of an established transportation company performing actual services.
It took access to documents out of Iraq and other sources not available to AWB, for IIC to uncover this scheme. As the covering letter to the IIC report states, the Committee had 75 forensic investigators and other professionals, conducted 1,100 interviews over 20 countries and had access to 12 million pages of documents. AWB provided full cooperation to the IIC investigation.
AWB has always maintained that it paid fees for inland transport in Iraq in good faith and did not know that the fees were being channelled to the former regime. AWB did not knowingly pay or enter into any arrangements to benefit the former regime.
It is of serious concern to now learn that fees the company had paid for the inland transportation of its wheat in Iraq were channelled to the former regime.
Throughout the OFF Program AWB relied on UN supervision to provide the right checks and balances.
There was a 10 step contract approval process established by the UN. Each AWB contract went through this process. Specifically, Resolution 986 required the UN to examine each contract, in particular the details of price and value, as part of the approval process. Our reliance on the UN cannot be overstated.
We are disappointed to now learn that concerns were raised with the UN Security Council 661 Committee about the inclusion of payments for inland transport costs in OFF contracts, but these concerns were not acted upon by the UN and never passed on to AWB.
As AWB submitted to the Committee the question of whether some of its staff “should have known” that Alia was a front company and channelling funds to the regime is of course debatable.
The isolated correspondence that the Committee now relies upon obviously take on a different complexion when viewed in the light of the facts now uncovered by the Committee’s extensive investigations.
Of fundamental importance is the fact of what was actually known to AWB at the relevant time.
As AWB submitted to the Committee, the fairest interpretation of all of the circumstances is that AWB was an unwitting participant in an elaborate scheme of deception devised by the regime.
Despite our great disappointment with what has transpired, AWB overcame extraordinarily difficult conditions to provide a reliable supply of quality wheat when the Iraqi people needed it most.