US veterans filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in federal court on Tuesday against five big pharmaceutical firms for funding terrorist organizations in Iraq.
The suit was brought by more than 100 US veterans and their families for injuries sustained in combating terrorist forces in Iraq. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], accuses defendants AstraZeneca, GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Roche of violating several provisions of the federal Anti-Terrorism Act and intentionally inflicting emotional distress by giving medicine, medical devices and the like to Sadrists to sell in Iraq through the corrupt Iraqi Ministry of Health (MOH).
The MOH was led by the Mahdi Army, a group known for attacking US soldiers and working with known terrorist group Hezbolla [WP report]. According to the plaintiffs, the “Iraqi healthcare system offered the Sadrists several advantages, including the ability to raise funds for terrorism through the medical-goods contracting process,” which the defendants are deemed principal parties to. The plaintiffs describe this process in part as:
Defendants’ corrupt transactions with MOH also aided and abetted terrorism by supplying Jaysh al-Mahdi with the means to pay its rank-and-file terrorist fighters. Some U.S. government personnel in Iraq called Jaysh al-Mahdi “The Pill Army,” because Sadr and his Jaysh al-Mahdi commanders were notorious for paying their terrorist fighters in diverted pharmaceuticals, rather than cash. Those fighters—most of whom were poor, uneducated, young Shi’a men—accepted such payment because they could re-sell the free drugs on the street or could consume the pills themselves as a form of intoxication.
In the 203-page complaint, the plaintiffs present findings on the financial impact the defendants allegedly had on the healthcare market. For instance, the MOH procurement budget “skyrocketed from $16 million per year under Saddam to an average of well more than $1 billion after 2004, when the Sadrists controlled MOH. As a result, the market for Defendants’ products in Iraq increased substantially, providing an additional motive for Defendants to engage
in corrupt transactions with MOH.”
The plaintiffs alleged these pharmaceutical companies violated the Anti-Terrorism Act because although they did not engage in terrorism through actual harmful force, they are accused of aiding terrorist organizations, which also violates the Act.