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WikiLeaks - Nigeria

Drug company Pfizer tried blackmail to dodge Nigerian lawsuit

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US drug company Pfizer hired sleuths to dig up corruption links to a Nigerian official so that he would drop a case against it for a 1996 drug trial involving children, according to a US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks and the Guardian newspaper yesterday.

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Pfizer's investigators were passing information about Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to local media, according to Pfizer’s Nigeria Country Director Enrico Liggeri in the cable, which dates from April 2009.

“A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa's 'alleged' corruption ties were published in February and March,” the cable says. “Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa's cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles.”

The Nigerian state and federal authorities brought a case against Pfizer, claiming children were harmed during a trial of the antibiotic Trovan. The trial was run during a meningitis epidemic in Kano in 1996.

Last year, Pfizer came to a preliminary settlement of 75 million dollars (57 million euros) with the Kano state government.

But the cable suggests that the US drug giant did not want to pay out to settle the two cases – one civil and one criminal – brought by the Nigerian federal government.

“Pfizer's image in Nigeria has been damaged due to this ongoing case,” the cable says. “Pfizer's management considers Nigeria a major growth market for its products and having this case behind it will help in efforts to rebuild its image here.

"The US Mission will continue to advocate for transparency in settling the case and also note to authorities that Pfizer must abide by the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and cannot simple hand over large sums of money to state and local officials.”

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