Boo Hoo: $6m AWB man cries about Iraqi atrocities

AWB sent millions of dollars in foreign currency to Saddam Hussein so he could build concrete bunkers, which AWB executives speculated might be used by the regime to bury Kurds.

The shocking email detailing the reinforced bunkers came on an extraordinary final day of the Cole inquiry in which a former AWB managing director broke down on the stand and new Trade Minister Warren Truss was drawn into the Iraqi kickback scandal.

But the extent of the scandal was revealed in the email by executive Daryl Borlase, who said Iraq wanted to build 2000 concrete bunkers, ostensibly to store grain, but "the bunkers will have cement walls and floors so they are actually designed for burying the Kurds – under the cement?"

"They intend to build them with fumigation capability so the mind boggles as to whether they are fumigating insects or any other pest that pisses them off," the email says.

It continued: "On a serious note, they will have cement flooring …"

Saddam is on trial in Iraq for the genocide of 182,000 people in a 1987-88 campaign against the Kurds.

The dramatic revelations came just hours after Mr Truss, who was sworn in as Trade Minister at 2.30pm yesterday, was dragged into the scandal.

Senior counsel John Agius produced a letter, drawn from the archives of AWB’s computers just this week, which suggested that former AWB chairman Trevor Flugge had discussed problems with the Iraq "trucking fee" with Mr Truss when he was agriculture minister in 2000.

The letter, which Mr Flugge swore he had never seen, was written on April 5, 2000, and addressed to the former Iraqi minister for trade, Mohammed Medhi Saleh, who later became the Six of Hearts in the Most Wanted pack of Iraqis.

It was written for Mr Flugge by an AWB executive turned whistleblower, Mark Emons.

Former AWB managing director Andrew Lindberg, who was the last witness on the last day of the inquiry, was asked by Mr Agius whether his staff knew that AWB’s millions was being funnelled to Iraq at a time when Saddam was accused of massive human rights abuses.

"Would you agree with me, Mr Lindberg, that the (Kurds) email does make plain that there were personnel within AWB who were aware of what … the Iraqi regime was capable of doing?" Mr Agius asked.

A short time later, Mr Lindberg collapsed into tears in the witness box.

His wife, who had been sitting in the public gallery, and several supporters rushed to comfort him.

Mr Lindberg resigned as CEO in February, shortly after Mr Agius asked him whether he was a "complete fool" for ignoring the scandal for so long.The job had paid him more than $6million in four years.

"I hope that wasn’t said in a serious way," he said yesterday, of the Kurds email. "I think it’s open for you to draw that inference."

Mr Lindberg told the inquiry he understood one of the reasons UN sanctions had been in place against Iraq was to stop Saddam’s regime getting hold of foreign currency to buy weapons or for other nefarious purposes.

In his final question Commissioner Cole asked former AWB CEO Andrew Lindberg: “Are you able to give me any understanding as to how you think this came about, how it happened in a company like AWB?” Mr Lindberg replied: “It would appear that it was set up before I arrived by former employees and it continued under my stewardship, and it shouldn’t have.”


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