WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) - Alstom SA (ALSO.PA) is close to settling a bribery case with the U.S. Justice Department for $700 million (445.60 million pounds), a person close to the matter said on Tuesday, in what would be the largest criminal fine levied by the United States for foreign bribery.
A settlement could be announced in the coming weeks, said the person, who declined to be named.
An Alstom spokeswoman said the company does not comment on ongoing proceedings. A Justice Department spokesman declined comment.
A top Justice Department official said in a speech last month that Alstom executives along with Japanese partner Marubeni Corp (8002.T) for many years engaged in a scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to a high ranking member of the Indonesian parliament and other Indonesian officials in exchange for help in securing a $118 million contract in Indonesia.
Prosecutors have already extracted guilty pleas from Marubeni and from three former Alstom executives over the scheme, and charged a fourth who is awaiting trial.
At the November speech, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Leslie Caldwell, said she expected additional law enforcement actions in coming months.
A $700 million penalty would be significantly higher than the $450 million Siemens AG paid in 2008 for criminal violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1970s law that bars U.S.-linked companies from bribing officials of foreign governments to win business.
In court filings related to one Alstom executive’s case, prosecutors said earlier this year they had evidence that a former Alstom executive tried to bribe officials to secure power projects not only in Indonesia but in India and China.
Alstom’s power turbines unit has been under pressure over the past year, hit by a drop in orders, a cash crunch and the threat of hefty fines from several bribery probes.
Alstom agreed in June to sell most of that power business to General Electric Co (GE.N) to focus instead on its smaller rail arm. The deal will be put to the vote of Alstom shareholders on Friday and is expected to close in the first half of 2015.
The $118 million Indonesian contract, to provide services at a power plant on the island of Sumatra, was completed in 2007 as part of a joint venture of Alstom and Marubeni.
The settlement was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha in Washington and Natalie Huet in Paris; Editing by Keith Weir and Steve Orlofsky