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AUSTRALIA: Lobbyists hired by AWB

by Richard BakerSydney Morning Herald
February 22nd, 2006

AWB enlisted the help of an influential Washington lobby firm headed by the former US defence secretary, William Cohen, to deal with a United Nations investigation into kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein.

The wheat exporter hired the Cohen Group last year as part of its strategy, code-named Project Rose, to deal with the UN inquiry headed by Paul Volcker and corruption allegations made against it by US wheat farmers and hostile US politicians.

Mr Volcker reported last October that AWB was the biggest rorter of the UN's oil-for-food program, funnelling almost $300 million to Saddam's regime.
Just weeks before Mr Volcker handed down his report, AWB executives and Othman al-Absi, the general manager of Alia, a Jordanian trucking firm, were working with US international law specialists DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary to co-ordinate a response to the UN.

Alia was a front company for Saddam Hussein's regime and was the conduit for the massive kickbacks paid by AWB and other companies involved in rorting the UN oil-for-food program.

DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary is the Cohen Group's "strategic partner". Last October Mr Othman briefed DLA's partner, Stanley McDermott, on what he told Mr Volcker's committee about AWB.

Evidence before the Cole inquiry shows Project Rose was designed by AWB in 2004 to conceal the payment of kickbacks to Saddam's regime. This included misleading UN and Australian government officials about the Iraqi payments.
The Cohen Group is chaired by Mr Cohen, the US defence secretary under President Clinton between 1997 and 2001.

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