German car manufacturer Daimler has pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the US and will pay $185m (£121m) to settle the case.
The charges relate to US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into the company’s global sales practices.
Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, admitted to paying tens of millions of dollars of bribes to foreign government officials in at least 22 countries but that it had now reformed the way it did business and has since fired 45 employees implicated in the bribery.
The offences were committed between 1998 and 2008 by Daimler’s German-based exports subsidiary Export and Trade Finance, and its Russian business Mercedes-Benz Russia.
They were said to have given money and lavish gifts to help win contracts in countries including China, Russia, Thailand, Greece, and Iraq.
The Justice Department said that by “using offshore bank accounts, third-party agents and deceptive pricing practices, these companies saw foreign bribery as a way of doing business”.
The company’s chairman Dieter Zetsche said the firm had “learned a lot from past experience”.
“Today, we are a better and stronger company, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain the highest compliance standards,” he added.
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