By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008
A Washington law firm filed a lawsuit yesterday against KBR, one of the largest U.S. contractors in Iraq, alleging that the company and its Jordanian subcontractor engaged in the human trafficking of Nepali workers.
Agnieszka Fryszman, a partner at Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, said 13 Nepali men, between the ages of 18 and 27, were recruited in Nepal to work as kitchen staff in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan. But once the men arrived in Jordan, their passports were seized and they were told they were being sent to a military facility in Iraq, Fryszman said.
As the men were driven in cars to Iraq, they were stopped by insurgents. Twelve were kidnapped and later executed, Fryszman said. The thirteenth man survived and worked in a warehouse in Iraq for 15 months before returning to Nepal.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California on behalf of the workers' families and the survivor, claims that the trafficking scheme was engineered by KBR and its Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud & Partners, according to Fryszman.
This spring, an administrative law judge at the Department of Labor, which has jurisdiction over cases that involve on the job injuries at overseas military bases, ordered Daoud to pay $1 million to the families of 11 of the victims. Attempts to reach officials at Daoud were unsuccessful. A phone message was left at their office in Dubai and e-mails were sent seeking comment.
Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for KBR wrote in an e-mailed statement: "KBR has not seen the lawsuit so it is premature for us to comment at this time. The safety and security of all employees and those the company serves remains KBR's top priority. The company in no way condones or tolerates unethical or illegal behavior."