The lawsuit was filed on behalf of members of the American military who were injured or killed in attacks from 2005 to 2009, at the height of the Iraq war.
At the time, the health ministry was controlled by followers of Moktada al-Sadr, a firebrand cleric and the leader of the Mahdi Army, whose death squads against Iraqi Sunnis brought the country to the brink of civil war. The lawsuit claims that lieutenants of Mr. Sadr, who was once seen as very close to Iran but has since refashioned himself into an Iraqi nationalist, sold the samples on Iraq’s black market to fund their attacks on American forces.
“As alleged by more than 300 Americans, Iranian-backed terrorists have used corruption at the Iraqi health ministry to help fund their terrorist operations in Iraq since at least 2004,” Ryan Sparacino, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement Tuesday.
Michele Meixell, a spokeswoman for AstraZeneca, confirmed the inquiry by the Justice Department. “AstraZeneca has a robust and dynamic compliance program,” she said, “and we refuse to tolerate bribery or any other form of corruption.”
In a court filing in April, the defendants in the lawsuit said the United States government encouraged them to do business with the government of Iraq.
“The United States expressly encouraged companies to sell and to donate to the ministry millions of dollars’ worth of medicines and medical supplies,” the defendants’ filing states.