A group of U.S. military veterans and relatives of soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq filed suit against five pharmaceutical and medical equipment giants, accusing them of funding the Islamist terrorist militia responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq.
As reported by The Financial Times, the lawsuit names the parent companies and subsidiaries of AstraZeneca, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Roche Holding.
These companies stand accused of paying bribes to the Iraqi Ministry of Health to win contracts. The ministry was known to be controlled by the Mahdi Army, an extremely anti-American, Shiite terrorist militia backed Hezbollah, the Iranian-funded Lebanese terrorist organization.
The suit charges that money from these bribes was used to fund the militia – allowing them to buy weapons, train fighters and conduct logistic support.
“Defendants’ corrupt transactions aided and abetted Jaysh al-Mahdi’s terrorist operations against Americans in Iraq,” the lawsuit states.
The U.S. military suffered tremendous losses between 2005 and 2009 at the hands of the Mahdi Army. The lawsuit includes a 27-page itemized list of U.S. soldiers killed or injured at the hands of the terrorist militia, including claims of suffering by relatives.
The lawsuit documents the extent to which the U.S. knew the Mahdi Army controlled the ministry. Inside the Iraqi Health Ministry hung pictures of the Mahdi Army’s leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Banners reading “Death to America” were hung in the ministry and AK-47 assault rifles could readily be found in the Health minister’s office.
By the end of 2004, the office had become too dangerous for Americans to even be inside the building. As the lawsuit claims, the ministry “functioned more as a terrorist apparatus than a health organization.”
The suit claims the drug and medical equipment companies were required by the Mahdi Army to pay a bribe of 20 percent of each sale to the Health Ministry to obtain ministry contracts. The companies acquiesced by providing “free goods” with every sale, which amounted to millions of dollars in bribes per year.
The Mahdi Army was euphemistically called the “pill army” by U.S. officials in reference to the fact that al-Sadr was known to pay his fighters with drugs that they could resell for their wages.
In addition, the suit says the companies gave the ministry money for after-sales support, effectively a “slush fund” that went to pay off ministry officials – the same officials that supported the militia.
The companies are further charged with using the U.S. banking system to channel these payments to Iraq to pay the bribes.
“Most of the defendants have a documented history of paying bribes that supported terrorism under Saddam,” said Ryan Sparacino, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
- In 2011, Johnson and Johnson was accused of paying kickbacks to win contracts in Iraq as well as other countries. They settled a lawsuit against them for $70 million.
- In 2010, General Electric was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi health ministry for contracts under the oil-for-food program. GE paid more than $23 million to settle that suit.