WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The French power and transportation company Alstom will pay a record $772.3 million fine and plead guilty to settle U.S. criminal charges that it funneled million of 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 Justice Department said on Monday.
In fact, the consultants were hired to bribe officials in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan, and the Bahamas, in a scheme that took place over about 11 years and involved paying more than $75 million to secure $4 billion in projects, the DOJ said.
The DOJ also said Alstom falsified its books to mask the bribes.
“It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole at a press conference on Monday.
The Justice Department’s settlement with the company marks the largest-ever fine levied against a company for violations of foreign bribery laws – a penalty 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 Justice Department said.
The Justice Department said internal emails and other information it obtained demonstrated just how well company officials knew the bribes were illegal.
In 2003, for instance, an Alstom finance employee sent an email 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 emails unless she “wanted to have several people put in jail” and instructed to delete all emails about the topic, according to the Justice Department. Earlier on Monday a unit of Alstom and two employees were also charged by the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom with bribing officials from 2002 through part of 2010.
Over the last few years, the company has been plagued by bribery investigations around the world. Previously, the Justice Department has filed criminal charges against five individuals and one Japanese company – Marubeni Corp – in connection with the case.