Graham Lawrence, managing director of the NSW Grains Board for eight years before being suspended, was questioned at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing yesterday about his possible involvement in an illegal rice trading deal with Water Wheel Holdings.

The grain trading and exports board, which collapsed last year with losses reaching an estimated US$160m, has been the focus of several accusations of corruption.

Lawrence was questioned about the "Wiradjuri joint venture" between the board and grain company Derrick and Sons. The joint venture was involved in a failed deal with WWH, which resulted in losses running into millions of dollars.

"Our firm feeling was we were not trading in rice," maintained Lawrence, adding that the capacity of the board in the deal was a "money lender".

It would have been illegal for the board to engage in rice trading with WWH, because all trading should have been conducted through the NSW Rice Marketing Board.