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Report: U.S. also probing HP over bribery claims

According to the Journal, the SEC is now also looking into whether HP paid bribes to land a computer deal with an arm of the Russian government.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched its own inquiry into whether Hewlett-Packard paid bribes to win a computer contract with a unit of the Russian government, according to a report on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal.

The move by regulators here follows reports on Wednesday that Russian investigators, acting at the request of German officials, raided HP's Russian offices. According to The Wall Street Journal, German prosecutors are investigating whether HP paid $10.9 million in an attempt to sell a sophisticated computer system to the Russian prosecutor general's office.

"HP has been in communication with the SEC and will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities investigating this matter," a company representative said in a Thursday statement to CNET.

Three individuals who worked for HP have been arrested in connection with the alleged bribery scheme, The New York Times reported Thursday. The three were arrested in December and charged with fraud in Germany and Switzerland, a spokesman for the Dresden prosecutor told the Times. Two of those defendants have left the company, while the status of the other was reportedly unknown.

On Wednesday, HP said it was cooperating with the inquiries by the foreign regulators and said it is also conducting its own investigation.

"This is an investigation of alleged conduct that occurred almost seven years ago, largely by employees no longer with HP," HP said at the time. "We are cooperating fully with the German and Russian authorities, and will continue to conduct our own internal investigation."

According to the Journal, the SEC is looking into whether any of HP's actions might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

While news of the many probes is just hitting the headlines, HP has known about the German investigation since December, when it was served search warrants for 10 suspects. The PC maker has hired lawyers "to assist prosecutors in their investigation," HP told the Journal.

Updated at 11 p.m. PDT: with details of defendants' arrests.