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US DOJ probing Iraq bribery claims against Pfizer, other major drugmakers

Pfizer Inc. said it received an inquiry from the U.S. Justice Department regarding a lawsuit claiming that it provided funding for terrorist organizations through its sales practices under contract with the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

The ministry was reportedly controlled by Jaysh al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army, which killed U.S. soldiers, according to previous reports.

Pfizer, one of the world's largest drugmakers, said in a recent Form 10-Q filing that the DOJ requested documents related to the matter, which it will be providing.

A lawsuit filed in 2017 in federal court in Washington, D.C., claims that the New York-based drugmaker, as well as pharma majors Johnson & Johnson, Roche Holding AG and AstraZeneca PLC, along with business conglomerate General Electric Co., bribed officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Health following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country to win supply contracts.

The bribes helped fund Jaysh al-Mahdi's acquisition of weapons, training and logistical support, according to the complaint filed by several American veterans and relatives of soldiers wounded or killed in Iraq.

As a result, the lawsuit accuses the companies of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act and seeks damages.

The DOJ has made similar requests to Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.