Philip Morris Says Russian Tobacco Suit 'Absurd'
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Philip Morris, the world'slargest cigarette company, said a lawsuit filed by the Russian government in August seeking to recover the cost of caring for Russian smokers was ``absurd.''
``This lawsuit is without any basis in fact or law,'' Alik Tuigunov, director of Philip Morris corporate affairs in Moscow, said in a statement.
``We do not know if this suit was authorized by the necessary Russian officials. If it was, it is patently absurd. We believe the lawsuit may not reflect the true sentiments of the leadership of this government or (parliament),'' he said.
The head of the Kremlin property administration office, Vladimir Kozhin, filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County court, Florida, on August 27, charging Philip Morris and other tobacco companies with causing suffering to Russian smokers, hiding the risks of cigarettes, and damaging Russia's economy.
``For decades, Big Tobacco's conduct has caused an incalculable loss of life, disease, disability, pain, suffering, illness and economic loss to the users of Big Tobacco's products, which economic loss was and is ultimately borne by the Federation as the provider of medical assistance,'' the lawsuit said.
The suit seeks unspecified cash damages.
In July, the Miami-Dade County court awarded Florida smokers $145 billion in damages against tobacco companies in a landmark case.
The Russian government lawsuit has been transferred to a U.S. federal government court in recent weeks, according to a court official.
Lawyers representing the Russian Federation were expected to contest the transfer.
Philip Morris, which operates three factories in Russia, said it was confident the suit would be dismissed as had others from the governments of Guatemala, Ukraine, Nicaragua and the province of Ontario, Canada.
It was not clear why Kozhin's office would have filed the suit rather than the government or the prosecutor's office.