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Largest civil racketeering case in history going to trial next week

[JURIST] Five years after the lawsuit began, the government's case against the nation's cigarette makers is set to begin next Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the amended complaint [PDF]. The government is pursuing the case under the 1970 Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), alleging that the cigarette industry targeted children in their advertising and deceived the public about the dangers and health hazards of cigarettes as well as the addictive nature of nicotine. The government is seeking $280 billion; in May, US District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the government can pursue the money the companies earned as a remedy for wrongdoing.

The industry denies the allegations and claims that there have been many marketing changes over the past six years as a result of large-scale tobacco settlement agreements and litigation across the country, therefore future RICO violations are unlikely. The defendants are Philip Morris USA Inc. and its parent, Altria Group Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.; British American Tobacco Ltd.; Lorillard Tobacco Co.; Liggett Group Inc.; Counsel for Tobacco Research-U.S.A.; and the Tobacco Institute. The trial is likely to last for at least six months. See the case history, including legal documents, here from the Justice Department. AP has more.

UPDATE: The original 1999 DOJ press release on the lawsuit is here, together with the complaint [PDF].

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