The former managing director of an Australian wheat firm that paid sanctions-busting bribes to secure U.N. oil-for-food program contracts in Iraq was fined $106,000 (Aus$100,000) on Thursday.
Andrew Lindberg admitted four counts of failing to exercise reasonable care and skill as a director under the Corporations Act for his part in the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) kickbacks scandal.
AWB, formerly Australia’s monopoly wheat exporter and privatized in 1999, paid Saddam Hussein's regime some Aus$300 million in bribes to secure lucrative grain deals with Iraq between 1999-2003 under the U.N. oil-for-food scheme.
Iraq’s new government suspended business with AWB in 2006 after its role in the scandal surrounding abuse of the program was confirmed by an official inquiry that saw the then prime minister John Howard called as a witness.
Australia’s corporate regulator launched legal action against Lindberg and five other former AWB directors and officers in the Supreme Court of Victoria state in 2007.
Lindberg was fined Aus$100,000 and banned from managing a company for a year by Justice Ross Robson Thursday.
“None of the contraventions involve deliberate wrongful acts, dishonesty or any moral turpitude,” Robson said. “Nevertheless, Mr Lindberg failed to perform his duties as a reasonable director or officer would in his situation.”
Robson accepted that Lindberg and his family had suffered “an extraordinary amount of financial, emotional and reputational stress” over several years as a result of the government inquiry into AWB and subsequent court case.
Lindberg said he was now ready to “get on with my life and do what I can.”
“I think in any market, particularly overseas when you deal with third world countries, I think you’ve got to be very careful, and it’s perhaps easier than you think to make mistakes,” he told reporters outside court.
Proceedings against the other officers are continuing.
Police dropped a criminal investigation into the scandal in 2009 after an independent review of the evidence found that there was little prospect of a successful prosecution.