ADM subsidiary admits overseas bribery, fined

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An overseas subsidiary of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Company has agreed to pay $17.8 million in fines after pleading guilty to bribing Ukrainian officials, the U.S. Justice Department said Friday.

Decatur, Ill.-based ADM was not prosecuted. The company also agreed to return $36.5 million in alleged illegal profits to settle related civil charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

ADM subsidiary Alfred C. Toepfer International Ukraine Ltd. pleaded guilty in federal court in Illinois on Friday to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Justice Department said.

"ADM's subsidiaries sought to gain a tax benefit by bribing government officials, and then attempted to deliberately conceal their conduct by funneling payments through local vendors," Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said in a news release. "ADM, in turn, failed to implement sufficient policies and procedures to prevent the bribe payments, although ultimately ADM disclosed the conduct, cooperated with the government, and instituted extensive remedial efforts."

About $22 million in bribes were made between 2002 and 2008 to receive more than $100 million in refunds on Ukrainian value-added taxes on locally purchased goods, according to the Justice Department and SEC. Purchasers could apply for refunds if those good were then exported, but the Ukrainian government sometimes delayed those refunds or didn't make them at all.

ADM's internal controls over bribery were "lackluster," Gerald Hodgkins, an associate director in the SEC's Division of Enforcement, said in a separate release.

ADM CEO Patricia Woertz said the company disclosed the bribes to federal officials in 2009.

"The conduct that led to this settlement was regrettable, but I believe we handled our response in the right way, and that the steps we took, including self-reporting, underscore our commitment to conducting business ethically and responsibly," Woertz said in a news release from the company.

The SEC settlement includes about $33 million in illegal profits, plus interest.

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