'Astounding' history of bribery uncovered in Alstom scandal

The extent of French engineering company Alstom's bribery record continues to unravel as Poland joins the UK in filing charges against it just a week after its $772m fine by the US Department of Justice.

NEW YORK - January 1, 2015.

The DoJ fine - the largest criminal corporate penalty under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) ever - relates to corruption charges against by the French train and turbine maker in foreign countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Indonesia.

The penalty dwarfs the previous record of $450m that the German multinational conglomerate Siemens AG paid to the DoJ in 2008 (though Siemens was subject to an additional $350m fine to the US Securities and Exchange Commission that Alstom escapes by not being listed in the US).

The DoJ charges outlined how Alstom paid out $75m to government officials resulting in winning projects worth over $4bn, with profits of around $300m.

Its probe centered on a $118m deal to supply boiler services to a power plant in Sumatra, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled off to a member of Indonesia’s parliament and the country's state-controlled electricity company.

Alstom confessed to bribing officials over power and transportation contracts with state-owned departments in Sumatra, as well as in Egypt, the Bahamas, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Taiwan, and admitted to altering its corporate financial records to hide the scale of bribery.

The US Deputy Attorney General said the company's corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and was "astounding" in its breadth, global consequences and brazenness.

He added: “It is my intention that this comprehensive resolution sends an unmistakable message to other companies, globally, that we will be relentless in rooting out and punishing corruption.” 

Following the ruling, Poland is set to widen charges against Alstom's Polish unit, which it says bribed public servants over multi-million dollar transportation contracts.

Alstom Konstal, it says, was contracted to deliver 108 carriages for Warsaw's metro system in 1998, 62 trams in 2000, and 60 trams a year on. It alleges two former Alstom employees inflicted severe financial damage on the company and failed to act in its interests.

The UK Serious Fraud Office has filed cross-border corruption charges against Alstom, accusing it of securing a contract for a power plant in Lithuania unlawfully.

This follows a case brought by Britain's leading fraud prosecutor in September accusing Alstom's UK subsidiary of paying $8m in bribes over six years to win transport contracts in Tunisia, India and Poland.

FCPA law bans businesses from making payments to foreign officials to win contracts and gives the government jurisdiction over non-US-based companies whose shares are traded in the US.

General Electric remains on track to buy Alstom in mid-2015, following a due diligence programme that has included French government signed off on the deal and approval from antitrust authorities in 20 countries.


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