The German-based carmaker Daimler has been fined $185 million (137 million euros) after admitting to paying tens of millions of dollars of bribes to foreign governments, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.
At a hearing on April 1 in a federal court in Washington, Daimler AG's Russian business Mercedes-Benz Russia SAO, and its German subsidiary, Export and Trade Finance GmbH (ETF), pleaded guilty to committing the offences.
On March 23, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Daimler AG, which produces Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks, of bribing officials in 22 countries, including China, Russia, Thailand, Greece, and Iraq, from 1998 through 2008 to obtain government contracts for car deliveries.
The Russian business daily Kommersant said that in 2000-2005 alone, Russian officials received some 5.02 million euros ($6.7 million) and around 80,000 German marks (more than $54,000) as government contract payoffs from the German auto giant, which accounts for 7.8% of the total worth of the contracts signed during that period.
Among the cars delivered to Russia under such contracts were Mercedes for top Russian officials, including the president, the prime minister, top judges, and parliament speakers, Vedomosti said.
The paper quoted a source close to the country's service providing security to Russian top officials as saying a total of 100 Mercedes were purchased under compromised contracts.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Russian Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry, as well as Moscow government officials and authorities in Ufa (Bashkortostan republic) and Novy Urengoy (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area) are accused of taking bribes from Daimler.
The Department said that by "using offshore bank accounts, third-party agents and deceptive pricing practices" Daimler "saw foreign bribery as a way of doing business."
At least 45 Daimler employees involved in the bribery have been fired.
"Compliance has high priority at Daimler," Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said. "We have learnt a lot from past experience. Today, we are a better and stronger company, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain the highest compliance standards."
In 2008, German industrial group Siemens was fined $800 million (560 million euros) on similar charges after a U.S.-led investigation.
MOSCOW, April 2 (RIA Novosti)