- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2004 were fed ice that was shipped in unsanitized containers used as temporary morgues, if allegations by the Justice Department turn out to be true.

The Justice Department is going after military contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root, as well as Kuwaiti companies La Nouvelle General Trading & Contracting Co. (La Nouvelle) and First Kuwaiti Trading Co., for defrauding the U.S. Army, the Military Times reported. The stomach-churning details of food containers is included in the suit.

The Justice Department is accusing KBR of using “refrigerated trailers to transport ice for consumption by the troops that had previously been used as temporary morgues without first sanitizing them.”

“Sometime around July 2003, while [refrigerated trailer] R-89 was being used as a morgue, the refrigeration motor broke down, leading KBR to send it back to Kuwait for repairs,” the suit said. “In late August 2003, after R-89 was repaired, KBR used the reefer to transport potable ice for the troops at Camp Matilda in Kuwait. KBR did not properly sanitize R-89 before loading it with potable ice for use by the troops.”

The companies involved in the lawsuit, which was filed Jan. 23 in federal court in Rock Island, Ill., are accused of taking kickbacks and submitting false claims in connection with KBR’s Army contract to provide logistical support in Iraq, the Military Times reported. Much of the civil litigation stems from subcontract managers who have who already admitted to taking kickbacks — one as high as $360,000.

“We depend on companies like KBR and its subcontractors to provide valuable services to our military,” said Stuart Delery, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, in a statement. “We will ensure that contractors do not engage in corrupt practices at the expense of our troops abroad, while profiting at the expense of taxpayers at home.”

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The total damage done will be determined at trial, the Military Times reported. Under the False Claims Act, the United States as plaintiff is entitled to three times the amount of damages plus civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 for each violation.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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