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BRAZIL: Businessman alleges Alstom paid bribes for Brazil project: report

May 29th, 2008

SAO PAULO (AFP) - French engineering group Alstom allegedly paid nearly a million dollars in bribes in connection with a Brazilian energy plant, testimony from a Brazilian businessman reported in the press here said Thursday.

The newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo said it had obtained a statement given to police by the businessman, Luiz Geraldo Tourinho Costa, alleging Alstom in 2002 used an account he had in Uruguay to deposit money from an Alstom subsidiary in Switzerland.

The money -- one payment of 550,000 dollars, and another of 342,000 dollars -- was paid to Petrobras, Brazil's state-run oil company which has a 50-percent stake in the TermoRio thermo-electric plant to which Alstom supplied turbines in a deal worth 550 million dollars at the time, the businessman was reported to have said.

Alstom's vice-president between 1999 and 2004, Jose Reis, was named as having asked Tourinho Costa to make his Uruguay account available for the transfer in return for a five-percent commission on the amount.

The newspaper said Reis's lawyer denied having participated in any such payments. Petrobras said it had no knowledge of Tourinha Costa's testimony.

The testimony from Tourinha Costa was given when he was arrested two years ago for a suspected fraud he was alleged to have tried to mount against Brazilian electricity companies.

Tourinha Costa was cleared of that charge after it was determined police had foiled the supposed plot before it could be carried out, Folha de Sao Paulo said.

Brazilian federal authorities announced earlier this month they were investigating Alstom for suspected tax avoidance and money laundering.

That probe adds to others in France and Switzerland into suspected bribe payments made by the French company to secure tenders in Latin America and in Asia between 1995 and 2003.

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