DaimlerChrysler could face a $640 million fine as a result of a bribery probe by the U.S. justice department and the U.S. stock market regulator, German weekly Der Spiegel said on Saturday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began their investigations in 2004 after a whistle-blower complaint filed by a former employee of the world's fifth-biggest carmaker.

The employee, who Daimler has said was sacked for falsifying financial information, alleged the company had kept secret bank accounts to bribe foreign government officials.

The carmaker said in March that an internal investigation, running parallel to the SEC and DOJ probe, found irregular payments had been made in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.

Citing information from within the company, Der Spiegel said the carmaker and U.S. authorities were in talks about a settlement under which DaimlerChrysler would pay the fine.

Der Spiegel also said DaimlerChrysler would be forced to change its internal accounting system to ensure it would no longer be possible to make bribes.

A DaimlerChrysler spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying only: The investigation continues.

In its 2005 annual report, the carmaker warned it could face fines if the SEC or DOJ finds it has violated U.S. law banning foreign bribes.

If the DOJ or the SEC determines that violations of U.S. law have occurred, it could seek criminal or civil sanctions, including monetary penalties, against DaimlerChrysler and certain of its employees, the carmaker said in the report.