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Drug firms probed over Iraq bribes


Three pharmaceutical companies are being probed by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over allegations of bribery linked to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly have been asked to hand over documents to the SFO as part of an investigation into possible breaches of the oil-for-food sanctions in the country.

The programme allowed Iraqi officials to sell limited amounts of oil to buy foreign medicines and food.

But a critical report for the UN in 2005 said the system became corrupt, because Saddam Hussein’s regime demanded “kickbacks” from foreign firms in return for the contracts.

An Eli Lilly spokesman said: “We were asked to supply documentation in mid-December. We are compiling these documents and they will be sent to the SFO in the new year.”

A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline added: “GSK does not believe that its employees or its agents in Iraq knowingly engaged in wrongdoing regarding the oil-for-food programme.

“In fact GSK went to considerable lengths to co-operate with UK Government authorities responsible for the UK administration of the programme, and to impose anti-corruption measures when dealing with intermediaries in Iraq at a time when the environment was extremely volatile and difficult.”

And an AstraZeneca spokeswoman said: “AstraZeneca has received a request from the Serious Fraud Office for documents as part of its review of the oil-for-food programme in Iraq. The company will be providing the documentation.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008



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