BAE Systems turned down the chance to pay 300 million pounds ($477 million) to settle a bribery investigation and is seeking to review evidence against it before trying to agree a deal, newspapers reported on Sunday.

The Serious Fraud Office said this week it was prepared to prosecute Europe's biggest defense contractor over allegations the firm used bribery and corruption in arms deals in South Africa, Tanzania, Romania and the Czech Republic dating back to the 1990s.

The Sunday Times reported BAE had turned down the 300 million pound settlement after receiving advice the sum was too great for the evidence uncovered and the company could leave itself open to civil lawsuits from shareholders.

The Sunday Telegraph, which also cited the 300 million pound figure, said BAE wanted to restart talks with the SFO to get a clearer understanding of the evidence against it.

Legal experts estimated last week that BAE could face penalties of hundreds of millions of pounds if found guilty but that securing a conviction would be very difficult, and that both sides would probably seek to settle out of court.

A spokeswoman for BAE declined to comment on Sunday's reports, and reiterated comments made on Thursday that the company was seeking to resolve (the issues) at the earliest opportunity.

The Independent on Sunday said the U.S. Department of Justice was looking to see if the deals under investigation by the SFO breached its own corruption rules and that there had been an informal exchange of information between the two agencies.

No-one at the SFO could immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; editing by John Stonestreet)

($1=.6289 Pound)