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The US government is investigating whether a unit of Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corporation paid bribes abroad to ease business deals, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Citing company documents, the paper said the probe is focused on Panasonic Avionics Corporation (PAC), a subsidiary based in Lake Forest, California that manufactures in-flight entertainment and communications systems for airlines.
It said dozens of Panasonic executives and employees based in Asia, Europe and the Middle East have received US government notices that reference the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars US companies and companies listed on US stock exchanges from paying bribes to foreign government officials.
A January 20 retention notice, which was reviewed by The Journal, told recipients to hold on to documents "concerning any benefits or gifts provided, or the payment of anything of value, by Panasonic or PAC to any airline employee or government officials".
A second notice, dated March 25, said that Panasonic had received a subpoena from government investigators earlier in the month that sought communications between Panasonic Avionics and a number of its consultants and middlemen and other documents related to payments to those third parties, the paper said.
The 1977 law is jointly enforced by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.
A Panasonic spokeswoman contacted by AFP in Tokyo refused to comment on the issue.