A complaint filed in the Civil Court for the District of Halabja in the Kurdish Region of Iraq alleges that from October 1980 through 1989, management representatives from defendants TUI A.G., Karl Kolb GmbH, and Heberger Bau A.G. coordinated with senior officials in Saddam Hussein’s Regime to plan the construction of chemical weapons factories within Iraq and then produce chemical agents and weaponize those agents for use against Iranian civilians and soldiers, Kurdish civilians, and other perceived enemies of the Saddam Regime.

Saddam’s European co-conspirators are accused of crossing moral red line after moral red line, eventually even building human-sized gas chambers and incinerators to allow Saddam to test and refine his weapons on prisoners of war.  The complaint alleges that numerous laws were broken and morals disregarded by these companies as they pursued illegal profits by assisting the Saddam Regime to commit: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, mass extrajudicial murder, wrongful death, grave bodily injury, intentional infliction of emotional and psychological harm, widespread and systematic destruction of property, ethnic cleansing, terrorizing civilian populations, and violations of customary international law with chemical weapons/poison gases.

The background to the atrocities, and the defendants’ alleged role in the development of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons capabilities, is set out in the complaint in summary as follows:


In 1974, the Iraqi Ba’athist regime created the State Organization for Technical Industries (“SOTI”) and tasked it with developing military industries and weapons programs, including the procurement and production of chemical weapons.   

In 1975, the Ba’athist regime requested that Pfaudler Inc., an American company headquartered in Rochester, New York, design a plant for production of pesticides. Pfaudler dispatched Joseph M. Culotta and Morris Gruver, two of its chemical engineers, to Baghdad to discuss the Samarra pesticides project with the Ministry of Agriculture. Following their visit to Iraq, the two chemical engineers prepared blueprints and equipment specifications for Iraq's first pesticides plant.  Upon review of the plans and specifications, and in light of several modifications requested by the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, Pfaudler management broke off negotiations and terminated its involvement in the program.  

In late 1976, the Iraqis showed the specifications taken from the drawings supplied by Pfaudler the year before to Imperial Chemical Industries, a British company and requested they commence building a pesticide plant. Imperial declined the offer “because of the sensitive nature of the materials and the potential for misuse.” According to intelligence sources in Washington, Imperial Chemical also informed the British Government of the unusual Iraqi request, as it had no doubt that the “type of pesticides plant Iraq was seeking could be easily converted to production of nerve gas.”  Pfaudler’s drawings called for the same type of corrosion-resistant reactor vessels, pipes, and pumps that were needed for nerve gas production. 

The complaint claims that, after the Iran-Iraq war began in 1980, chemical weapons became a priority for Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The complaint lists two German companies, engaged in construction and chemical businesses, which had offices in Baghdad at that time: defendants TUI A.G. and Karl Kolb GmbH. 

TUI is alleged to have hired Salah Majid, the chief lawyer for the Iraqi organization tasked with developing military industries and weapons program, which oversaw Saddam’s chemical weapons development program (State Organization for Technical Industries, SOTI) as a “senior legal advisory” despite his not speaking German or being licensed in Germany.  Majid’s justification for his senior position and salary was that he worked in international tenders, which were in English, and not many Germans had “good English.”  Majid’s employment with TUI ended when Saddam’s regime fell in 2003.

The complaint goes on to explain how Saddam’s chemical weapons program, code named “Project 922” was launched on June 8, 1981.  Revolutionary Command Council of Iraq decision #1156, 27 August 1981, noted that in order to create a chemical weapons program large enough to have an impact on the war with Iran, the creation of “a convincing cover story was needed to engage contractors and providers of equipment, technology, and materials without compromising the true nature of the project.”  “Project 922” was placed under the direction of SOTI, which established the State Establishment for Pesticide Production (SEPP), tasked with acquiring technology and expertise to build and deploy chemical weapons.  The U.S. later listed the head of SEPP on its “most wanted” list of Iraqi leaders for his central role in the development and use of chemical weapons.

TUI is said at this time to have appointed its head of operations in the Arab world as a direct contact for SEPP, reporting directly to the TUI Board.  From 1983 until 1985, TUI is alleged to have hand-delivered to SEPP military textbooks and training manuals on how to use the compounds TUI was delivering and the capacities in the plants for military purposes, including the direction for producing chemical weapons.  TUI is also alleged to have opened its Baghdad office to high level military generals who visited regularly. 

According to the complaint, TUI was tasked with identifying other European companies to join the conspiracy and that Majid was even allowed by TUI to work in support of TUI competitors to help them make offers to SEPP and secure contracts.  When other TUI employees complained that TUI personnel were working for and diverting contracts to competitors, it is suggested that TUI’s Head of Global Corporate Building Sector buried the complaints and refused to take any action.  The complaint alleges that this was done to help conceal the true nature of SEPP and “Project 922” from authorities by breaking up shipments of materials to make it harder for export authorities to realize the scope and purpose of the project.

According to the Saddam Regime’s detailed report to the United Nations Special Commission on its chemical weapons production, TUI also supplied much of the chemical weapons material and equipment used by the regime between 1982 and 1988.  In addition, the Iraqi report also listed numerous chemical weapons components TUI indirectly supplied through a shell company formed by its employees.

The complaint details how, during that period, one of TUI’s alleged co-conspirators, Heberger Bau, A.G., is accused of agreeing to pick up the work the American and British corporations had refused, and retooling the “pesticide” plants to produce chemical weapons.  It is also accused of supplying “scrubbers,” which were required to replace the entire atmosphere in the chemical weapons plants every 30 seconds.  The complaint alleges that Heberger built these plants as hardened underground bunkers, and also built four “dummy” factories to divert/confuse mission attacks against the project.  The facilities were protected by anti-aircraft missile batteries, guard towers, and surrounded by tanks.   

Moreover, the complaint alleges that, at multiple points during building construction and then weapons development, Heberger falsified documents and export licenses to cover up the true purpose of the plants.  German and Swiss independent experts, hired by German export authorities, later testified that these plants could not have been used to produce any modern pesticides and were specifically built for large scale production of Sarin and Tabun nerve agents.  In 1986, an aerial bomb factory was added to the weapons complex.

One German engineer cited by the complaint, who was on temporary assignment to support a mixing machine at the facility testified (in the ZKI investigation, 13 June 1988) that, “Everywhere protective suits were hanged. I asked one person what was produced there, and he answered, ‘We produce materials against pests: fleas, bugs, locusts, Persians and Israelis.’”

Perhaps the most disturbing allegation of all is that the weapons complex in Samarra included gas chambers (which German engineers named “inhalation chambers”), which were built to be large enough to test the poison gas on human POWs.  TUI, it is alleged, supplied the complex with incinerators “for animal carcasses” to dispose of the gas chamber test subjects; but there is no need for a pesticide plant to have human-sized gas chambers or the capacity to deal with the disposal of large animal carcasses.

The complaint alleges that all of these facilities were built and planned in coordination with SEPP, TUI, and Karl Kolb GmbH, (Heberger is said to have been the lead on building the Samarra complex, and its subcontractors is alleged to have built the gas chambers) and that engineers and managers from all of the co-conspirators visited the complex, oversaw distinct operations there (TUI also allegedly built a factory used to dry and mill granular chemicals required to produce the poison gas) and were fully aware that the facilities were for military production with no viable civilian applications.

By 1982, the United States government pressed the West German government to stop the flow of materials and chemicals needed for the chemical weapons from Germany into Iraq.  By 1984, the West German government had put in place a series of regulations to halt the export by German companies to Iraq of materials and factory equipment necessary for Saddam’s chemical weapons program.

Despite the direct warnings from intelligence agencies and laws meant to block sales, TUI is alleged to have continued its business with the Saddam regime by falsifying export documents, working through shell companies, and entering into new conspiracies with companies in France that faced fewer restrictions and could deliver components on TUI’s behalf.

The complaint claims that TUI disguised the real end use of various kinds of machinery for the chemical weapons facilities delivered to SEPP by falsely labeling the shipments as “fire extinguishers” which were in fact 150-300 mm bombs that would be filled with mustard or nerve gas agents. Four so-called cooling-containers that served as filling facilities for highly toxic substances were falsely labeled as containers to cool “milk powder.”

The complaint alleges that inquiries and orders from the Saddam Regime came through TUI, with the full knowledge of TUI’s Board of Directors, and were then implemented by its shell companies to conceal TUI’s involvement.

Although the shell companies generally officially operated out of different locations, they publicly operated out of TUI Hanover and Baghdad offices for short periods of time and continued to use the TUI telephone and telex in the Hamburg office.  In later testimony, an employee of the shell company admitted that “invoicing and document creation were partially done by me in Hamburg, and partially at the TUI office in Hanover by persons unknown to me.”  

It is alleged that Defendant Peter Leifer (employee of both TUI and TUI’s primary shell company) was an engineer and is said to have understood the multiple applications of the delivered equipment. Leifer is alleged to have confessed that he knew that a tube fitting facility, delivered by TUI through the shell, served military purposes, and that the facility was specifically designed to unscrew 122 mm grenade launchers, fill them with poison gas and screw them back together. 

TUI whistle-blowers, like TUI engineer Michael Benzin, who informed the West German embassy in Baghdad that he was working at a plant that was producing chemical weapons, were immediately terminated without notice, it is claimed.

In order to circumvent the German export controls, it is alleged that TUI, Karl Kolb and Heberger recruited and conspired with French and Dutch companies, including defendants Protec S.A., De Dietrich, Melchemie and Frans van Anraat, each of whom became necessary and vital components of the conspiracy. 

The German manager of one of the Karl Kolb chemical plants later testified that following the West German export embargoes, “there were exports to Iraq via Austria and France, in which the company that I manage, participated. [Through French and Austrian companies], the goods were declared for export to Iraq via Austria or France. And the relevant customs authorities did not object them, as our company’s name did not appear.”  He also said that TUI regularly used alternative routes through France to continue its exports to Iraq, with TUI officials being quoted as saying that since Iraq was the company’s main market, it could not afford to let the German government’s new regulations affect business. 

To read the list of accusations and supporting documentation in the Complaint, click here