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Meat giant to pay £3.2m penalty for bribery charges

14 February 2011

Tyson Foods of Springdale, Arkansas, will fork out £3.2m ($5.2m) in civil and criminal penalties to settle allegations one of its units bribed officials in Mexico to certify meat exports

The US meat producer said in 2007 it informed authorities officials at its Mexican poultry processing unit, Tyson de Mexico, had improperly funneled money to two government veterinarians.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the veterinarians, who were responsible for inspecting the safety of Tyson chicken slated for export from Mexico to countries such as Japan, received some money through their wives, who were on the Mexican unit's payroll even though they didn't work for the company. This was according to court documents filed by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Justice Department said about $350,000 in improper payments were made since 1994, when Tyson Foods bought a controlling stake in the Mexican poultry business that became its Mexico unit.

The business was paying phantom salaries to the two phantom employees at the time Tyson bought its stake, according to court documents, says the Wall Street Journal.

The paper says Tyson agreed to pay a $4 million criminal fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department, which charged Tyson with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Justice officials have agreed to dismiss the criminal information, which was filed in the US District Court in Washington, DC, in two years if Tyson successfully implements new internal controls, among other things.

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