Diageo PLC, the London-based parent corporation of Diageo USVI, agreed Wednesday to pay about $16.4 million to settle civil allegations of bribing government officials in India, Thailand and South Korea, the Associated Press reported.
The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing but agreed to refrain from future violations, according to the AP report. Diageo was accused of bribing the officials to get sales and tax benefits for its Johnnie Walker and Windsor Scotch whiskeys and other brands.
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday announced the settlement with the company, which is the world's largest maker of distilled spirits. The SEC had accused Diageo of paying more than $2.7 million in bribes through subsidiaries in the three countries from 2003 to 2009.
On St. Croix, local representatives of Diageo USVI, the company's distiller of its Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, said the issue was a corporate, not a local issue and referred questions to the corpration's U.S. headquarters in New York.
The corporation's public relations office issued a statement noting the SEC investigation related to payments involving Diageo’s subsidiaries. Under the settlement Diageo has agreed to pay $13.4 million to the SEC in disgorgement of profits and pre-judgment interest, to pay a $3 million penalty to the SEC, and to cease and desist from committing any further violations.
"Diageo takes the SEC’s findings seriously and regrets this matter," the corporate statement said. "Systems and controls have been enhanced in an effort to prevent the future occurrence of such issues and to reinforce, everywhere the company operates, a culture of compliance and commitment to the principles embodied in Diageo’s Code of Business Conduct."
Diageo opened its Captan Morgan's distillery on St. Croix in November 2010 and earlier this month began construction on a $4 million visitor center.