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Monsanto Agrees to $1.5M Penalty in Bribe Probe

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – St. Louis-based Monsanto said Thursday it has agreed to pay $1.5 million in penalties to resolve government investigations of bribery in Indonesia.

The bribe was meant to influence an official in Indonesia to get rid of a decree the company found unfavorable. "Monsanto accepts full responsibility for these improper activities, and we sincerely regret that people working on behalf of Monsanto engaged in such behavior," said Charles Burson, Monsanto's general counsel.

The official in Indonesia never changed or repealed the decree, despite the bribe.

Monsanto said the Justice Department investigated whether a former senior U.S.-based Monsanto manager directed an outside consultant to make a $50,000 bribe to an Indonesian government official in 2002. The decree at the center of the bribe required an environmental impact study before any authorization was granted to allow cultivation of genetically modified crops by Monsanto, the company and the Justice Department said.

"Companies cannot bribe their way into favorable treatment by foreign officials," Christopher Wray, assistant attorney general for the criminal division, said in a statement. The settlement "will help ensure that such dishonest and illegal activity does not occur in the future."

Monsanto also said at least $700,000 in other illegal or questionable payments were made to various Indonesian government officials between 1997-2002.

During the past four years, Monsanto earnings from customers in Indonesia made up less than 1% of the company's total revenues.

Monsanto said it learned of the irregularities in 2001 and notified the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department after an internal investigation. Burson has called the alleged acts "obviously contrary to Monsanto's corporate policy."

Monsanto said it has fired employees involved in the matter.

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