Page last updated at 21:35 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 22:35 UK

Daimler agrees to pay $185m after admitting bribery

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Daimler is best known for its Mercedes-Benz brand

German carmaker Daimler has pleaded guilty to corruption in the US and will pay $185m (£121m) to settle the case.

The charges relate to US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into the company's global sales practices.

Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, admitted to paying tens of millions of dollars of bribes to foreign government officials in at least 22 countries.

The company said it had now reformed the way it did business.

Offshore accounts

The offences were committed between 1998 and 2008 by Daimler's German-based exports subsidiary Export and Trade Finance, and its Russian business Mercedes-Benz Russia.

Dieter Zetsche
Today, we are a better and stronger company, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain the highest compliance standards
Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche

They were said to have given money and lavish gifts to help win contracts in countries including China, Russia, Thailand, Greece, and Iraq.

The Justice Department said that by "using offshore bank accounts, third-party agents and deceptive pricing practices, these companies saw foreign bribery as a way of doing business".

Daimler has since fired 45 employees implicated in the bribery.

The company's chairman Dieter Zetsche said the firm had "learned a lot from past experience".

"Today, we are a better and stronger company, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain the highest compliance standards," he added.

'Deserves credit'

The case was heard in a federal court in Washington, where the presiding judge, Judge Richard Leon called the financial settlement a "just resolution".

Prosecutor John Darden added that Daimler had "showed excellent cooperation".

"The company has undertaken an effort to clean its own house," he added.

"That reflects a serious change of mind on part of Daimler. This deserves credit."

Daimler's agreement to pay $185m is broken down into $93.6m to end the US Justice Department investigation, and a payment of $91.4m to settle the civil case from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US financial watchdog.

The company made a 2.6bn euros ($3.5bn; £2.3bn) loss last year.

Back in 2008, German industrial group Siemens paid $800m to settle a US investigation into bribes paid to government officials in Argentina, Bangladesh, Iraq and Venezuela.

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