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US steps up foreign bribe enforcement

Federal authorities want companies to know that the cost of paying bribes to win overseas contracts is growing steeper by the day.

world Updated: Feb 09, 2010 00:28 IST

Federal authorities want companies to know that the cost of paying bribes to win overseas contracts is growing steeper by the day.

Long a priority of the FBI and the Justice Department, efforts to police corrupt business payments have intensified in recent weeks, with multimillion-dollar corporate settlements and coordinated arrests of individual executives accused of attempting to grease the skids.

On Friday, BAE Systems, the world’s second-largest defence contractor, agreed to pay $400 million to resolve decade-old allegations that it misled the Defence and State departments about its efforts to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The law bars companies from bribing government officials to win lucrative contracts and other favourable treatment.

The BAE deal came weeks after the FBI unveiled its first FCPA sting operation, which culminated in the arrests of nearly two dozen businessmen employed in the defence and law enforcement equipment industry. Most of the people arrested were in Las Vegas to attend a trade show.

FBI agents and prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Fraud Section arranged the takedown to occur at a shooting range after the suspects had checked their personal firearms on the way in the door.

Both cases connect to the Washington area, where the FBI houses the only squad in the nation dedicated to cracking down on corrupt payments. The Washington Field Office operation includes about a dozen agents and analysts, some of whom took part in the 2 1/2 -year sting, a spokeswoman said.

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