The UK branch of French train and turbine maker Alstom paid about £5.3m in bribes over six years to win foreign transport contracts, according to documents filed in court by fraud investigators.
The bribes went to company representatives in India, Poland and Tunisia, to win deals to build train infrastructure for the Delhi Metro and tram systems in Warsaw and Tunis, Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said in legal filings published after the first London court hearing on Tuesday.
Alstom Network UK is now facing six charges for corruption and conspiracy to corrupt, for the offences that took place between 2000 and 2006.
According to SFO, which has spent five years investigating Alstom’s activities as part of an international inquiry, the company attempted to disguise the bribes as consultancy agreements.
These agreements were struck by Alstom Network UK, certain directors and others with Indo European Ventures Pte and Global King Technology in India, Sagax Engineering Limited and Kavan BV in Poland and Construction et Gestion NEVCO in Tunisia, the SFO alleged in a document.
The case comes at a tricky time for the French parent, which has agreed a £10.5bn sale of most of its power business to US conglomerate General Electric in a deal that gives the French government an option to become a shareholder.
"The company has been in communication with the SFO and seeks no more than a fair and appropriate resolution of the allegations made," a spokeswoman for Alstom said.
If convicted, Alstom Network UK faces fines or a ban from competing for public contracts in the European Union. Its next court hearing at the higher Southwark Crown Court is scheduled for 6 October.
The British investigation was spawned by information from the Swiss Attorney General, which ordered Alstom to pay 38.5 million Swiss francs (£25m) for corporate negligence in 2011 because it had failed to stop bribery.
Three executives of Alstom's US unit in Connecticut have since pleaded guilty and admitted paying bribes on behalf of the company. Four years ago, the SFO arrested three UK board members over allegations of bribery, money laundering and false accounting.
Siemens, Alstom's German rival, paid about £1bn in 2008 to settle US and German allegations it used bribes for years to win contracts.