Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, has been charged $185 million by a U.S. court because of several violations to bribery laws spanning the past decade. Daimler was essentially offering gifts, including luxury cars, to foreign officials in an effort to secure business deals.

The $185 million charge is the cost of settling the case in the U.S., though Daimler’s German and Russian divisions may end up pleading guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors in the U.S. claim Daimler was engaging "in a long-standing practice of paying bribes" to secure deals in Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Iraq and at least 16 other countries between 1998 and early 2008, according to a criminal information filed in a U.S. court.

Some of the bribes include an armored car, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, given to an official in Turkmenistan and another to a Liberian official to secure government contracts.

The bribery actions were discovered during a probe by the SEC, which began in 2004 following a whistle blow from an auditor who was fired because he complained about secret bank accounts used to pay the foreign officials.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]