Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iraq kickbacks 'known' to US, UK (P&O statement)

THE US and British governments knew more than four years ago that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime was demanding huge kickbacks from importers, a commission of inquiry has been told. The evidence suggests the naval forces from both countries were aware of the kickbacks at a time when the Royal Australian Navy was helping police UN sanctions against Iraq by inspecting ships in the Persian Gulf.

A statement from British shipping giant P & O Nedlloyd (PONL), was obtained this morning by the Cole commission investigating wheat exporter AWB's $300 million in illicit payments to Iraq under the UN's corruption-riddled oil-for-food program. PONL, in a statutory declaration to the commission, said two of the world's biggest navies – the American and British – knew Saddam's regime was slugging humanitarian suppliers a 10 per cent kickback on top of contract prices in September 2001.

PONL's Dubai manager Michael Wallbanks said when his office was advised about the 10 per cent "after sales tax" levied by Iraq, he contacted the US and British navies, as well as the British Embassy in Dubai. "I recall that they were all aware of the requirement to pay the after sales service tax and advised that if PONL was merely advising exporters what it was told in relation to requirements for shipping goods to Iraq it was doing nothing wrong," Mr Wallbanks' statement said.

The impost, he said, was common knowledge among anyone in the shipping industry who had dealings with Iraq.
"It was well known and widely communicated, and anyone involved in shipping goods to iraq from August or September 2001 would have known about it," he said.


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