USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced the immediate suspension and proposed permanent debarment of Australian wheat exporter AWB today. The company, which recently effectively lost its monopoly exporter status in
"We have a duty to protect the public interest by ensuring the firms and individuals with whom we do business abide by the law," says Johanns. "We have taken this immediate step based on evidence of illicit activities and, in some cases, evidence of attempts to conceal those activities."
The idea of debarment had come up after the Nov. 27 Cole Commission Report, which found that AWB had exploited the U.N. Oil-for-Food program and paid over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks to the Iraqi government.
Effective immediately, these companies and individuals are barred from participating in any