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Alstom Says Bribery Report Based on Speculation

Engineering group Alstom said on Tuesday some of its employees had been questioned as witnesses in a Swiss legal investigation, but said a report it was being investigated for paying bribes was based on speculation.

The Wall Street Journal reported Swiss and French officials were investigating whether the French company had paid bribes to win contracts in Asia and South America between 1995 and 2003.

Swiss and Brazilian police officials met last week to talk about payments totaling about $6.8 million that they suspected Alstom officials had made to gain a $45 million Sao Paulo subway expansion contract, the report said, quoting people who knew about the meeting.

The report said investigators were also looking into about $200 million of suspicious payments Alstom made in connection with a hydroelectric project in Brazil and projects in Venezuela, Singapore and Indonesia.

"This article reiterates statements or insinuations which had already appeared several months ago in various articles published in Switzerland and Germany. It is based on hypotheses and speculation," an Alstom spokesman said, reading from a prepared statement in French.

"Alstom stresses that no legal procedure has targeted the company in the matter of corruption," he added.

He said an unspecified number of people currently employed by the group were being questioned as witnesses "in the context of a procedure launched in Switzerland and which does not target Alstom".

Others mentioned in the news report had either never been part of the company or had left in 2001, he added.

The Wall Street Journal reported that payments connected to the hydroelectric and other projects were noted in Alstom documents that investigators obtained, adding it had reviewed those documents.

The Journal report said the current investigation had begun in 2004 and that Swiss authorities had formally asked for help from French and Brazilian investigators.

Alstom said its ethics code called for strict adherence to the law governing commercial activity where it operated.

Alstom shares fell 0.7 percent to 149.31 euros Tuesday, underperforming the French CAC-40.