Washington: French engineering giant Alstom has pleaded guilty and will pay USD 772 million to settle charges of paying bribes to foreign government officials to win contracts around the globe, the largest-ever fine levied by the US against a company for violations of bribery-related charges.
The agreement comes after more than six years of investigations into Alstom by law enforcement in the US, Switzerland and Indonesia.
"Alstom's corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents," said Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
"It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its world-wide consequences."
The record criminal penalty reflects in part what prosecutors say was as a failure by the company to disclose the misconduct or to cooperate with the investigation for several years, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Alstom's written plea agreement said the company's lack of cooperation impeded the department's investigation of individuals involved in the bribery scheme. Alstom's bribery schemes took place from at least 2000 through at least 2011, the department said.
Earlier in the day, 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.
Alstom Chief Executive Officer Patrick Kron said the company regretted "a number of problems in the past".
The settlement "allows Alstom to put this issue behind us and to continue our efforts to ensure that business is conducted in a responsible way, consistent with the highest ethical standards," he said.
The Justice Department said Alstom engaged in a bribery scheme by funneling more than USD 75 million through third-party consultants who then paid government officials to secure more than USD 4 billion in projects for Alstom. The company profited to the tune of USD 300 million, the department said.
Alstom and several subsidiaries paid the bribes and falsified records in connection with power and transportation projects in countries including Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Bahamas, the department said.