Dutch prosecutors settle bribery case with car importer

AMSTERDAM, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Dutch prosecutors on Thursday said they had settled a corruption investigation into a leading car importer in the Netherlands, Pon Automotive, for 12 million euros ($13 million).

The deal means the company will no longer be prosecuted for its alleged role in one of the Netherlands’ biggest corruption scandals related to the sale of 3,000 cars to the Dutch Defence Ministry and police force.

Pon said it had cooperated with prosecutors and tightened its internal guidelines in the wake of the scandal. It said that “the criminal investigation did not establish that the individual payments led to orders or tenders being won.”

“The current management distances itself from the behaviour in this period and regrets that it could have happened. It will actively implement the high standards of compliance at Pon Automotive,” the company said in a statement.

Large scale corporate bribery cases are rare in the Netherlands, which anti-corruption organisation Transparency International ranks among the least corrupt countries in the world.

Dutch authorities have a long track record of settling bribery cases with companies, rather than pursuing tricky prosecutions of individuals.

But prosecutors said an investigation into six police officers and civil servants, who allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros in the case, was still ongoing.

The prosecutors also said between 2001 and 2011, 40 suspects at car companies, dealers and government offices were allegedly involved in more than 100,000 euros in illegal kickbacks. The bribes included discounts on cars, Mediterranean cruises and trips to Greece, Finland, Russia and Iceland.

Investigators found that several Pon employees had paid bribes, prosecutors said in the statement. ($1 = 0.9115 euros) (Reporting By Anthony Deutsch. Editing by Jane Merriman)