As the Federal Government prepares to release the Cole report, lawyers linked to the hearings warn that the legal battle is set to rage on for years, with possibly little end result.
They say that much of the testimony gathered during seven months of the inquiry’s public hearings — including many of the revelations that have implicated senior AWB figures — will not be admissible in any future trials.
The commission is expected to recommend today that criminal charges be considered against up to 16 current and former AWB employees for their role in helping to funnel $290 million to Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi kickbacks scandal. The commissioner has foreshadowed possible charges including obtaining property by deception, financing a terrorist organisation and bribing foreign officials.
But three top barristers connected to the case warn it could be more than four years before anybody goes to jail for their role in the biggest political and corporate scandal to hit Australia in years. “Any investigating body can’t simply adopt the reasoning or thinking of commissioner Cole, they have to review the evidence for themselves,” one source says.