The pursuit of former AWB executives over Iraqi kickbacks has claimed a second scalp, but a court meted out a much lighter punishment than the corporate watchdog had sought.
The wheat exporter’s former chief financial officer Paul Ingleby was today fined $10,000 and banned from corporate management until the end of the year for failing to realise bribes were being paid to Saddam Hussein’s government for wheat deals under his watch.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission had pushed for a $40,000 fine and two-year ban after Mr Ingleby agreed to admit one breach of the Corporations Act.
But Victorian Supreme Court Justice Ross Robson said that was too harsh.
Mr Ingleby admitted failing in his duties between December 2001 and September 2004 as AWB paid the Iraqi government hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks.
The court heard Mr Ingleby co-authorised payments to trucking company Alia, which channelled bribes disguised as inland transportation fees to Saddam’s government to secure lucrative deals.
Justice Robson said he’d had information that should have seen him “raise questions as to the legitimacy” of the fees, but failed to realise they were ultimately being paid to the government rather than a United Nations-authorised escrow account.
Justice Robson said while Mr Ingleby had been negligent, he had not been dishonest.
“Mr Ingleby accepts that he failed to join the dots,” he said.
“It is not alleged, however, that he was actually told in a face-to-face meeting of the details of how inland transport fees were paid, nor is it alleged that he had actual knowledge of what was going on or that he was directly advised by officers of AWB.”
Justice Robson handed former AWB managing director Andrew Lindberg a $100,000 fine and a two-year company management ban on Thursday for failing to tell both the AWB board and the UN what he knew about the kickbacks. Mr Lindberg admitted to four breaches of the Corporations Act.
Mr Ingleby did not appear in court today.ASIC said it noted the decision on Mr Ingleby and was examining it, but would not comment further.
“ASIC is reviewing the judgment and does not intend commenting further at this time,” it said in a statement.
The watchdog continues to pursue four other former AWB executives over the kickbacks.It launched civil penalty proceedings in December 2007 following the Cole inquiry into Australian companies involved in the scandal over the UN oil-for-food program.