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Alstom UK fined £15m for Tunis metro contract bribe

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The UK arm of French rail firm Alstom was on Monday fined £15 million (S$27.3 million) for bribery in relation to a tram contract in Tunisia, Britain's Serious Fraud Office said.

[LONDON] The UK arm of French rail firm Alstom was on Monday fined £15 million (S$27.3 million) for bribery in relation to a tram contract in Tunisia, Britain's Serious Fraud Office said.

Alstom Network UK was convicted of conspiracy to corrupt last year for paying an intermediary 2.4 million euros to win an 80-million-euro contract with Transtu, which runs the Tunis Metro, between 2003 and 2006.

Instead of being "a legitimate contract for services", the intermediary - Nevco - was in fact "a conduit for bribes", the SFO said in a statement.

The prosecution said Nevco was run by the brother-in-law of Tunisia's late president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted from power during the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011.

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"This sentencing brings to an end a case which involved cooperation from over 30 countries and concerned conduct across Europe and beyond," said SFO director Lisa Osofsky.

"It shows we will work tirelessly with law enforcement around the world to root out bribery and corruption."

In addition to the £15 million fine, Alstom was ordered to pay £1.4 million in costs. It has 28 days to pay the total amount.

Alstom had no immediate comment when contacted by AFP.

The firm and two executives were cleared of corruption charges in the same case at London's Southwark Crown Court in relation to transport contracts in Poland and India, the SFO said.

Last year, three executives from Alstom Power Ltd were jailed after they admitted paying bribes of over five million euros to win a 240-million-euro power station contract in Lithuania.

In that and the Tunisia case, "papers were falsified to circumvent checks put in place to prevent bribery by Alstom staff responsible for preventing corruption", the SFO said.

Three other executives from Alstom Network UK were acquitted of bribery claims in relation to a contract to provide rolling stock for the Budapest metro system.

The British investigation began in 2009 after Switzerland raised concerns about the group and in particular its British subsidiary.

AFP