WASHINGTON, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – US authorities are examining an allegation that a reseller for software giant Microsoft bribed executives at a Russian state-owned telecommunications company in order to secure a contract, according to US media reports.
The claim, first reported Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal, comes amid a probe into Microsoft’s international business practices by US federal authorities that the Seattle-area software maker confirmed Thursday.
Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray confirmed that the company’s activities in Russia and Pakistan are now part of an investigation, Bloomberg reported.
An anonymous tipster told Microsoft in March that a reseller in Russia paid kickbacks to executives at a state-owned telecommunications firm to win a contract, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing unnamed individuals familiar with the matter.
The report did not give the name of the company in question and said Russian officials could not be reached for comment.
The Journal reported earlier this year that attorneys from the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were conducting a preliminary probe into accusations of possible kickbacks by a former Microsoft representative in China, as well as Microsoft’s activities in Romania and Italy.
The Journal’s report on Wednesday also said that a tipster had alleged that Microsoft authorized a consulting firm to provide a trip to Egypt for a Pakistani official and his wife in order to secure a tender.
Microsoft vice president John Frank acknowledged the Journal’s report in a blog post this week and said that the company cooperates “fully in any government inquiries.”
“Like other large companies with operations around the world, we sometimes receive allegations about potential misconduct by employees or business partners, and we investigate them fully, regardless of the source,” Frank wrote.
Several multinationals have been ensnared in Russian bribery scandals in recent years.
German prosecutors last year charged three former employees of Hewlett-Packard with bribery in the alleged payment of 7.5 million euros ($10 million) in kickbacks to Russian officials in order to sell $45 million worth of computers to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, Bloomberg reported.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office told the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda in September that he was unaware of any officials at the agency being implicated in the bribery case.
The SEC last year charged pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for alleged illegal payments made by its subsidiaries to officials in several countries, including China, Russia and Kazakhstan.
In February 2010, two top IKEA managers, Per Kaufmann and Stefan Gross, were dismissed by the Swedish furniture retailer after being caught giving bribes to an electricity supplier in St. Petersburg.