Justice Department joins SEC in investigating bribery allegations at DaimlerChrysler

Friday, August 5th 2005, 11:54 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department is investigating whether DaimlerChrysler AG paid bribes to foreign officials with the knowledge of its senior executives, according to the company's latest financial disclosure.

The criminal investigation is in addition to one begun last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission after an employee fired by the automaker said he was dismissed for complaining that the company was using secret bank accounts to bribe government officials.

DaimlerChrysler said it is cooperating with the investigations by ``voluntarily sharing ... information from its own internal investigation of payments from certain accounts'' and complying with subpoenas from both federal agencies.

A DaimlerChrysler spokesman, Toni Melfi, confirmed that the investigation was linked to the SEC inquiry.

The company said its own investigation has identified questionable payments but that it has not reached ``any definitive conclusions'' about whether they violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, DaimlerChrysler said in its interim report to the SEC on its financial performance in the second quarter of 2005.

The law prohibits the payment of bribes to foreign officials.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined to comment Friday. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the Justice Department investigation on Friday.

David Bazzetta, a former employee in the automaker's corporate auditing department, claimed in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit last year that he learned during a corporate audit executive meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, that payment of bribes was a common practice dating to before Daimler-Benz's 1998 merger with Chrysler Corp.

The suit was settled last month. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.