updated 1/29/2004 8:13:07 AM ET 2004-01-29T13:13:07

A Justice Department inquiry into HealthSouth is reportedly centering on possible violations of federal anti-bribery laws.

The Wall Street Journal says investigators want to know whether Birmingham-based HealthSouth provided kickbacks in its effort to win access to the Saudi Arabian healthcare market.

U.S. companies are prohibited from making payments to corporate and foreign officials in order to gain business overseas.

Citing people familiar with the investigation, The Journal says the probe is a new direction in the department's efforts to uncover fraud at HealthSouth.

Government prosecutors have focused on accounting fraud in a probe that has netted 15 guilty pleas from former finance and accounting executives. In October, HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy was indicted on 85 counts, including securities fraud.

Scrushy, who says he didn't take part in any fraud, is scheduled to go to trial in August.

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