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Russian, Turkmen Officials Allegedly Pampered By Daimler

The German automaker Daimler AG has agreed to pay a $185 million fine to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over allegations that bribes were paid to secure business in a number of countries, including Russia, Turkmenistan, Romania, Bulgaria, and Latvia.

Daimler will neither admit nor deny the charges. A formal approval of the settlement is scheduled for April 1 by a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

"The Moscow Times" reports that Daimler’s Russian subsidiary agreed to plead guilty to paying bribes to Russian government officials to secure business in the country. According to the SEC compliant, Daimler paid more than $4 million in kickbacks to officials in Russia’s Interior Ministry, the military, and the cities of Moscow and Ufa. Daimler provided Mercedes-Benz sedans for senior officials as gifts, the complaint says.

Reuters reports that Daimler tried "to curry favor to enter the Turkmenistan market by giving two armored vehicles worth at least $750,000 to a senior government official." The company also had a book authored by the official translated into German as a gift, the complaint says.

Daimler is the latest in the string of high-profile cases the SEC and the U.S. Justice Department have launched in the last decade to fight corruption around the globe.

Each foreign company whose shares are traded on the U.S. stock exchange may be subject to criminal prosecution for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Another notorious FCPA case in the U.S. involving foreign officials is the so-called Kazakhgate affair, which has been making its way through the federal courts in New York for a decade now. The case is pretty much dormant at present; in its early stages the government of Kazakhstan reportedly paid over $1 million to public relations companies in the United States to contain the political damage.

The Kazakhgate complaint accuses President Nursultan Nazarbaev of taking tens of millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for providing lucrative licenses to major Western oil and gas companies. The president could have been subpoenaed as a witness in the case. According to some 2006 reports, however, the U.S. Justice Department assured Nazarbaev that he's under no such threat.

-- Nikola Krastev

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