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    Panasonic Unit Pays $280Mln to Settle Foreign Bribery Charges - US Justice Dept.

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Panasonic Avionics (PAC), a division of the Japanese electronics giant Panasonic, has agreed to pay $280 million in criminal and regulatory penalties to settle charges that it hid bribes to foreign officials as payments to consultants, the US Department of Justice announced in a press release on Monday.

    "PAC employees hid more than $7 million in payments to at least 13 sub-agents," the release said.

    PAC admitted that it mischaracterized these payments as "consultant payments" on its general ledger, which it knew caused Panasonic to incorrectly designate those payments as "selling and general administrative expenses" on Panasonic’s books, records, and accounts."

    The settlement included criminal penalties of $137.4 million plus an additional $143 million in disgorgement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading the regulatory agency in securities filings, the release said.

    According to court documents, one purported "consultant" received $875,000 from PAC over a six-year period in which PAC earned over $92 million in profits from portions of the contract over which the consultant had influence, the release noted.

    Published reports indicated that the violations took place in China although the release only cited PAC operations in the "Asia region."

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    The Justice Department release characterized the settlement as a "deferred prosecution agreement," in which a decision on future legal action will be based on Panasonic’s continued cooperation and enforcement of a compliance program that will be independently monitored for the next two years.

    PAC, based in the state of California, designs and distributes in-flight entertainment systems and global communications services for airlines and airplane manufacturers, according to the release.

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