AWB Ltd., Australia's scandal-plagued wheat seller, was targeted in two separate class actions lawsuits today — one by more than 100,000 American wheat farmers, and the other by Australian wheat farmers and AWB shareholders.
The lawsuits follow a finding by Australia's Cole Inquiry last year that charged AWB paid massive bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime to secure wheat contracts under the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program. The American lawsuit, filed today in federal district court in New York City against AWB Ltd., and its U.S. subsidiary AWB USA Ltd., charges the company with corruption that shut U.S. wheat exports out of the Iraqi market during the Oil-for-Food program. A statement from attorneys representing the U.S. wheat farmer explains the lawsuit "invokes the federal antitrust and civil RICO laws to force AWB and its U.S. subsidiary to compensate American farmers for the damages they suffered. Damages to American farmers could be well over $100 million."
Leonard Schock, Chairman, U.S. Wheat Associates, said, "While U.S. Wheat Associates has been monitoring this situation for more than a year, no organization representing U.S. wheat producers is a party to this class action suit, nor did U.S. Wheat Associates initiate this action." US Wheat was the first to complain publicly about AWB's corrupt practices during the Oil-for-Food program.
Meanwhile, disgruntled AWB farmers and shareholders in Australia also lodged a lawsuit against the company today in Australia.