Malaysia to probe Alcatel bribery charges

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Anti-corruption authorities in Malaysia said Wednesday they will investigate US claims that French-based telecom equipment giant Alcatel-Lucent bribed officials to secure contracts.

The Paris-based firm has been accused by US authorities to have bribed government officials in Latin America and Asia -- including Malaysia -- between December 2001 and June 2006.

Alcatel on Monday agreed to pay 137 million dollars in fines and penalties to settle the charges, after reaching an agreement with the US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Justice Department said Alcatel had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prior to its 2006 merger with US-based Lucent Technologies.

"The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission viewed the claims seriously and would verify with the relevant parties before deciding on any appropriate actions to be taken," the commission said in a statement.

There were no details immediately available on Malaysian officials' involvement in the case.

The SEC has said Alcatel's subsidiaries "used consultants who performed little or no legitimate work to funnel more than eight million dollars in bribes to government officials in order to obtain or retain lucrative telecommunications contracts and other contracts."

Alcatel-Lucent admitted that the company earned some 48.1 million in profits as a result of the actions, officials said.

Alcatel agreed to pay more than 45 million dollars to settle the SEC's charges, and pay an additional 92 million dollars to settle criminal charges with the Department of Justice.

Apart from Malaysia, the SEC complaint said Alcatel's bribes also went to government officials in Costa Rica, Honduras and Taiwan.

© 2010 AFP

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