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Downer may be called for AWB case

Downer may be called for AWB case article image

The Federal Court has given permission to the shareholders of disgraced wheat enterprise AWB to issue a subpoena to former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer to call him as a witness in the case. In 2005, it came to light that AWB had made payments under the guise of transport fees to Saddam Hussein's regime to secure lucrative wheat supply contracts, against the rules of United Nations sanctions. Shareholders' solicitor Ben Slade, of law firm Maurice Blackburn, said Downer would be called upon "to refute the suggestion AWB is making that the government knew that kickbacks were being paid" after AWB lawyers revealed that their defence would centre on the Howard government's knowledge of the fees. The investors have until November 20 to subpoena Downer. The suit, reportedly worth $100 million, is scheduled to begin on November 30 and will argue that the investors suffered financial losses when a parliamentary inquiry exposed the illegal payments.

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