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WikiLeaks: Pfizer Sought Dirt on Nigerian AG

Umma Hassan, right, stands outside her home in Kano, Nigeria, June 6, 2007, with her 14-year-old daughter Hajara Hassan, a victim of the illegal meningitis drug test allegedly run by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in 1996. Hajara Hassan lost her hearing. AFP/Getty Images

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer hired investigators to dig up evidence of corruption against a Nigerian attorney general in order to force him to drop federal cases alleging that the company conducted an illegal drug trial on children suffering from meningitis.

A Pfizer manager in Nigeria told U.S. embassy officials that the company planned to "pressure" Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, the Guardian newspaper of London reported Thursday evening.

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The disclosure comes from the trove of secret State Department cables released to a number of news outlets by the document-dumping website WikiLeaks.

A leaked embassy cable about a meeting between the manager, Enrico Liggeri, and embassy officials suggests that Pfizer did not want to settle the criminal and civil cases the Nigerian government brought against the company.

"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," the April 9, 2009, cable reads. "He said Pfizer's investigators were passing this information to local media."

In 2009, the company tentatively settled with the government of the Nigerian state Kano for $75 million, the Guardian reported.

The alleged trial took place during a meningitis epidemic in Kano in 1996. Pfizer's doctors used a new antibiotic, Trovan, on 100 children, federal authorities alleged. Another 100 children were treated with another drug, ceftriaxone, the Guardian reported.

Eleven children -- five on Trovan, six on ceftriaxone -- died during the trial, the Guardian reported. Authorities claimed Pfizer didn't have proper consent from parents and that the trial wasn't properly documented, the Guardian reported. Trovan was later licensed for adults in Europe and removed after concerns that the drug was linked to liver toxicity, the Guardian reported.

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