AWB scandal Royal Commission underway

23 Feb, 2006 01:03 PM
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THE Federal Government's Royal Commission into the AWB Iraq deals scandal began in Sydney this week.

Former NSW judge and building industry Royal Commissioner Terence Cole will decide whether AWB's actions under the UN sponsored oil-for-food program amounted to bribery or broke any other Australian laws.

Former WA-based AWB chairman and director Trevor Flugge arrived in Sydney on Monday for the commission.

He is expected to be one of the first witnesses called.

AWB International director and Morawa grower Chris Moffett said he would risk being in contempt of court by commenting on the commission.

Mr Moffett said he expected the probe would act as a book of revelations in many ways.

Political manoeuvring over the inquiry has already begun with Federal Opposition Trade spokesman Kevin Rudd questioning the scope of the commission.

Prime Minister John Howard has said the inquiry should focus only on people associated with companies mentioned in the United Nations' Volcker Report, which first brought the issue to light.

The commission's terms of reference do not allow for scrutiny of actions by government officials or ministers.

Trade Minister Mark Vaile told Parliament recently it was ludicrous to link trade officials' support of Australian exporters to complicity in the scandal.

"To suggest this indicates government involvement or complicity in the payment of kickbacks to the former Iraqi regime, which is outrageous, ludicrous and unsubstantiated," Mr Vaile said.

He said the UN-commissioned Volcker Report had cleared the government.

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