Beam Suntory to pay $19 million to settle bribery probe
29 Oct 2020

Beam Suntory Inc. has agreed to pay $19.5 million to resolve a criminal probe into bribes the maker of spirits allegedly paid to sell a line of its products in India, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The settlement between Chicago-based Beam and federal prosecutors defers a charge that it conspired to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The agreement arrives two years after Beam settled related civil claims with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by paying $8.2 million.

“Beam and its Indian subsidiary not only paid bribes to Indian government officials, they intentionally failed to implement internal controls to prevent bribery and falsified their books and records to conceal the corrupt activity,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said Tuesday.

Todd Bloomquist, Beam’s general counsel, said the company was pleased to move past the matter. “Our company is committed to doing business the right way, and we take pride in our approach to resolving these issues, with integrity and transparency at every step of the process,” he said.

Beam, which is owned by Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd., makes popular spirits including Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam bourbon, and Hornitos tequila.

Beam paid bribes to Indian officials, including to obtain business in India, from the time it acquired its India business in 2006 to 2012 mostly through third-party sales promoters and distributors, according to the settlement.

In one case, Beam engaged in a scheme to pay a bribe of one million Indian rupees, or approximately $18,000 at the exchange rate at the time, according to the Justice Department, to a senior Indian official in exchange for approval to bottle the company’s “ready-to-drink” products.

The bribe was authorized by an unnamed high-ranking executive at Beam’s Asia Pacific and South America regional business unit, who tried to conceal the payment by directing it to be made through a Beam subsidiary’s third-party bottler, prosecutors said.

By Dylan Tokar, The Wall Street Journal, 27 October 2020

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