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More pharma companies revealed in Iraq bribery investigation

The UK Serious Fraud Office investigation regarding illegal bribes paid to Saddam Husseinís Iraqi regime adds more pharmaceutical companies to its list

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation regarding illegal bribes paid to Saddam Husseinís Iraqi regime has added more pharmaceutical companies to its list.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), AstraZeneca (AZ) and Eli Lilly have confirmed reports that they received requests to supply the agency with documentation relating to their participation in the United Nation's (UN) Oil-for-Food programme.

An SFO spokesperson said that the number of firms being investigated ran into "double figures", with a number of pharma companies identified in an investigation into the corruption of the UN scheme, according to in-PharmaTechnologist.com.

GSK, AZ and Lilly were issued Section 2 notices by the SFO in December 2007, with Lilly confirming a response deadline of the end of January 2008.

While such notices are regularly issued to financial institutions, banks or accountants who often hold information relevant to suspected fraud, Section 2 powers can only be used in investigations where there is reasonable suspicion of serious or complex fraud.

The SFO's investigation began back in February 2007, examining suspected cases of improper payments to the Iraqi government in order to obtain contracts with Iraqi ministries.

The Financial Times said that millions of dollars in fines have been paid by firms found guilty of paying illegal bribes. The report claimed investigators had uncovered evidence suggesting AZ had paid USD 162,000 in bribes to get three contracts worth USD 2.9m. GSK was named as having paid USD 1m to win nine medicine contracts valued at USD 11.9m.

AZ denies the allegations, while GSK said it did not believe that its employees or agents in Iraq knowingly engaged in any wrongdoing regarding the Oil-for-Food programme.

The SFO spokesperson added that the investigation could last another year.

The full report can be accessed here

3rd January 2008

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