A U.S. District Judge fined French energy and transport giant Alstom SA $722 million Friday, for bribing government officials in Indonesia, Egypt and several other countries in exchange for state-backed contracts. The fine is the largest ever penalty levied by the U.S. government in a foreign bribery case.
The Connecticut judge formally sentenced the company under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for falsifying its books and failing to implement adequate internal controls. The company had pleaded guilty to the charges in a federal court last year.
The Justice Department’s investigation revealed that Alstom had covered its tracks by hiring middlemen to offer bribes to government officials. Internal Alstom documents refer to some of these middlemen in code, including “Mr. Geneva,” “Mr. Paris,” “London,” “Quiet Man” and “Old Friend.”
The company’s bribery operations -- described as “astounding in its breadth and brazenness” by Deputy Attorney General James Cole -- had even managed to bribe a high-ranking member of the Indonesian Parliament to secure contracts for several power projects in the country.
"In total, Alstom paid more than $75 million to secure more than $4 billion in projects around the world, with a profit to the company of approximately $300 million," the Department Of Justice said in a statement.
The U.S. watchdog said it had imposed such a high fine partly because the company did not cooperate with its investigation for several years. The company started cooperating with the investigation only after the Justice department leveled charges against five of its executives, four of whom have pleaded guilty.
The fifth person, named Lawrence Hoskins, who was a senior vice president for the Asia region in the past, will be tried in 2016.