Malaysian telcos ban Alcatel-Lucent from bids

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Telekom Malaysia and mobile operator Axiata have barred a French equipment giant from bidding for new tenders for a year, a report said Friday, after it admitted paying bribes for contracts.

Malaysian authorities in December began to probe accusations by US officials that Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent gave kickbacks to government officials in Latin America and Asia -- including Malaysia -- between December 2001 and June 2006.

The investigation came days after Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay $137 million in fines and penalties to settle the charges as part of an agreement with US authorities.

On Friday the Star newspaper said Telekom Malaysia had suspended the company from tenders and contracts for 12 months from January 5, while Axiata will impose the suspension from February 18.

Transparency International Malaysia welcomed the the decisions but described the 12-month punishment as "mild" by international standards.

The group's president Paul Low urged anti-graft watchdog the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to hunt down and prosecute the "receivers" of the bribes, which the Star newspaper said amounted to $700,000.

Alcatel-Lucent agreed in December to pay the huge fine to settle the charges following a deal with the US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

It had told the two US authorities that it made improper payments to obtain contracts with Celcom, a unit of Axiata. Axiata was previously known as TM International, a unit of Telekom Malaysia.

The contract was concluded in 2009. Axiata was demerged from Telekom Malaysia in 2008.

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

The SEC has said Alcatel's subsidiaries "used consultants who performed little or no legitimate work to funnel more than $8 million in bribes to government officials in order to obtain or retain lucrative telecommunications contracts and other contracts."

© 2011 AFP

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