NEW YORK U.S. drugmaker Pfizer hired investigators to find evidence of corruption against Nigeria's attorney general to convince him to drop legal action against the company over a drug trial involving children, the Guardian newspaper reported, citing U.S. diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.
Nigeria's Kano state sued the world's largest drugmaker in May 2007 for $2 billion over testing of the meningitis drug Trovan. State authorities said the tests killed 11 children and left dozens disabled.
Pfizer and Kano's state government signed a $75 million settlement on July 30.
Reuters was not able to verify the content of the leaked cables.
In a statement, Pfizer said it "negotiated the settlement with the federal government of Nigeria in good faith and its conduct in reaching that agreement was proper."
"Any notion that the company hired investigators in connection to the former Attorney General is simply preposterous," the company said.
The Guardian reported on its website on Thursday that a memo leaked by WikiLeaks referenced a meeting between Pfizer's country manager, Enrico Liggeri, and U.S. officials suggesting the drug company did not want to pay to settle two cases brought by Nigeria's federal government. The Guardian linked to the cables on its website, www.guardian.co.uk/.
"According to Liggeri, Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases," according to an April 2009 cable from Economic Counselor Robert Tansey of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, cited in the Guardian report. "He said Pfizer's investigators were passing this information to local media."
Aondoakaa was removed from the post of justice minister in February this year by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
"A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa's 'alleged' corruption ties were published in February and March," the cable said.
"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," it said.
In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Trovan for use by adults only. After reports of liver failure, its use in the United States was restricted to adult emergency care. The European Union banned its use in 1999.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Jon Hemming and John Wallace)