Australian minister denies knowledge of oil-for-food corruption

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer took the stand Tuesday at an inquiry into alleged corruption by Australia's wheat exporter, after another senior minister said he was too busy to notice warnings that the company paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein.

Downer was the second minister to appear at the inquiry into allegations the Australian Wheat Board, now known as AWB Ltd., paid US$220 million (euro180 million) to Baghdad to secure grain contracts worth more than US$2.3 billion (euro1.9 billion) between 1997 and 2003 under the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.

And like Trade Minister Mark Vaile on Monday, Downer, in a written statement to the inquiry made public as he took the stand, repeatedly denied having seen a string of warnings sent by diplomats to Canberra about AWB's possible corruption.

"I do not have a specific recollection of having received or read this cable or (it) otherwise being brought to my attention," Downer wrote 21 times in his sworn statement about the cables, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team