updated 8/5/2005 10:53:56 AM ET 2005-08-05T14:53:56

DaimlerChrysler AG said Friday it is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department, which is investigating claims that the company’s Mercedes Car Group may have paid bribes to foreign officials and that senior executives were aware of it.

DaimlerChrysler spokesman Toni Melfi said the investigation was linked to an inquiry last year by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That investigation began after a former Chrysler accountant in Detroit claimed the company kept secret bank accounts with which to bribe foreign officials.

Melfi did not say how many countries or how many people were being investigated. The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified U.S. officials, said Friday the claims centered on a dozen countries and that senior executives in Stuttgart, Germany, were aware of it.

Justice Department officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

The German-American automaker had mentioned that it was cooperating in the investigations in its July 28 earnings report and said its internal investigation had not reached any conclusions as to whether any laws were broken. It added that adjustments to past earnings reports may be required as it completes its investigation.

The Journal said German officials were also investigating after 53-year-old Rudi Kornmayer, the managing director of a Mercedes plant in Nigeria, shot and killed himself in a park in Esslingen on July 22.

Prosecutors in Stuttgart said he left a suicide note behind, but it provided no details on the claims.

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