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Fresh glare on wheat import

Fresh glare on wheat import

india Updated: May 30, 2006 02:22 IST

The controversial "Australian wheat" is back in news again. Two years ago, the CBI had closed its probe into an alleged scam in the import of two million tonnes of Australian wheat by India’s State Trading Corporation (STC) for want of "requisite evidence" from its Australian counterpart.

Now the country’s attorney general has rejected the charge. The consequence: A fresh probe. Reports say Australia’s federal police are likely to reopen the probe into allegations that Australian Wheat Board (AWB) had paid kickbacks to the tune of USD 2.5 (Rs 11.25 crore) million to Indian officials to push the deal through.

The wheat imported in 1998 at a cost of USD 142.5 per metric tonne, could not be stored by FCI in its godowns, which were full. The corporation was forced to make a distress sale. According to reports in the Australian media, Canberra will ask the Australian Federal police to probe the alleged payment by AWB into an account in the Cayman Islands.

Agency reports from Australia said the government was awaiting the report of Commissioner Terence Cole, studying the evidence, before deciding on whether to involve the federal police, a spokesperson for Australian attorney-general Phillip Ruddock said on the national television channel on Monday. AWB representative Christian Sealey said the board would also review the deal and take "necessary action". He, however, refused to elaborate whether any kickbacks were paid.