Wed, Dec 24, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Alstom to pay US$772.3m to settle bribery charges

RECORD PENALTY:The French power company hired ‘consultants’ to bribe officials in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and other nations to secure US$4 billion in projects

Reuters, WASHINGTON

French power and transportation company Alstom will pay a record US$772.3 million fine and plead guilty to settle US criminal charges that it funneled millions of US dollars in bribes through sham consultants to win business around the globe.

Using code names such as “Mr Paris” and “Quiet Man,” Alstom tried to conceal tens of millions of dollars in bribes by pretending that the consultants it had hired were legitimate, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Monday.

In fact, the consultants were hired to bribe officials in Taiwan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Bahamas, in a scheme that took place over about 11 years and involved paying more than US$75 million to secure US$4 billion in projects, the department said.

It also said Alstom falsified its books to mask the bribes.

“It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences,” US Deputy Attorney General James Cole said at a press conference.

The department’s settlement with the company marks the largest-ever fine levied against a company for violations of foreign bribery laws — a penalty that the government said is appropriate because Alstom failed to self-

report the violations or cooperate with the criminal probe.

The parent company pleaded guilty to two criminal counts and admitted to wrongdoing in a federal court in Connecticut.

Alstom’s Swiss unit also pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it conspired to violate federal bribery laws, while Alstom’s US power and grid units each entered into deferred prosecution agreements and admitted to conspiring to violate bribery laws, the department said.

The department said internal e-mails and other information it obtained demonstrated just how well company officials knew the bribes were illegal.

For instance, in 2003 an Alstom finance employee sent an e-mail saying she could not process an invoice for a consultant because there was no proof any services were rendered.

A project manager then told her to stop sending such e-mails unless she “wanted to have several people put in jail” and instructed her to delete all e-mails about the topic, according to the justice department.

Earlier on Monday, a unit of Alstom and two employees were also charged with bribing officials from 2002 through part of 2010 by the Serious Fraud Office in the UK.

Over the past few years, the company has been plagued by bribery investigations around the world. Previously, the DOJ had filed criminal charges against five individuals and one Japanese company — Marubeni Corp — in connection with the case.

“There were a number of problems in the past and we deeply regret that,” Alstom chief executive officer Patrick Kron said in a statement.

“This resolution with the DOJ allows Alstom to put this issue behind us and to continue our efforts to ensure that business is conducted in a responsible way,” he added.

The company has ceased hiring outside sales consultants and retained a monitor in 2012, he added.

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