The inquiry into allegations that the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), the nation’s monopoly wheat exporter, paid illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime is to expand to investigate BHP Billiton’s dealings in Iraq.

Philip Ruddock, the Australian Attorney-General, yesterday (6 February) revealed that the government has agreed to expand the remit of the oil for food inquiry, at the request of Terence Cole who is at the head of the investigation.

Revelations from the inquiry have sparked a sharp sell-off of AWB’s shares, as it is widely speculated that the investigation heralds the end of AWB’s wheat export monopoly.

“The terms of reference have been amended in accordance with Mr Cole’s request and in the form proposed by him,” Ruddock said.