Third drug company says it faces Iraq 'kickbacks' probe
( AFP ) - A third pharmaceutical giant said Sunday it is being investigated by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over alleged breaches of the United Nations oil-for-food programme in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Eli Lilly and Company Limited said it had been asked to hand over documents to the SFO, a day after British peer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca announced they had received similar requests.
An Eli Lilly spokeswoman said the company would comply with the demand which was made in mid-December.
"We are compiling these documents and they will be sent to the SFO in the new year," she said.
Eli Lilly and Company Limited is the British affiliate of United States-based Eli Lilly and Company, headquartered in Indianapolis.
The oil-for-food programme, which allowed Baghdad to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian items, ran from 1996 to 2003, the year in which US-led forces invaded Iraq.
Paul Volcker, the former US Federal Reserve chairman, said in a 2005 report that Saddam's regime demanded kickbacks from foreign companies under the scheme, and accused more than 2,000 companies of involvement.
The Iraqi government swindled millions of dollars from the programme, sparking a scandal that caused major embarrassment to the UN.
The SFO, whose remit covers firms based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said in February it had opened a probe into the affair which could take three years and is expected to cost around 22 million pounds (44 million dollars, 30 million euros).
The two other drug companies, GSK and AstraZeneca, denied any wrongdoing Saturday and said they were co-operating fully with the investigation.