International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. made millions of dollars in "illegal, improper, corrupt and questionable payments" to government officials and business customers in nine foreign countries between 1970 and 1975, the governmnent charged yesterday.
The allegations came in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court here by the Securities and Exchange Commission and ordered released yesterday. ITT had resisted the disclosure for months.
he SEC said ITT made payments to officials in Indonesia, Iran, the Philippines, Algeria, Nigeria, Mexico, Italy, Turkey and Chile. The suit did not identify the recipients and the SEC refused to say why.
The suit also put no dollar figure on the foreign payments. In August 1977, ITT - without naming the countries - said it had found evidence of $8.7 million in foreign payments, but the SEC suit did not verify the accuracy of that figure.
The SEC, which overseas the operations of publicly owned companies, fileoversees the operations of publicly owned companies, fileailed to adequately disclose details of the foreign payments to its stockholders.
ITT, for its part, has argued in court that the SEC was seeking to reveal "confidential business information" and that the SEC has no authority under the securities laws to carry out such an investigation.
In court yesterday, an attorney for the company indicated ITT would fight the SEC suit. The SEC, for its part, will continue its own investigation.
ITT fought to block publication of the suit since last March, and an attempt to get the Supreme Court to stay publication was denied on Monday.
U.S. District Court Judge George L. Hart Jr. ended the battle by ordering the release yesterday.
The SEC suit said the illegal payments made possible "contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In Indonesia alone, two domestic subsidiaries of ITT and a Belgian ITT subsidiary, Bell Telephone Manufacturing Co., obtained telecommunications contracts valued at a total of $157 million."
The court records also make clear that ITT has fought the SEC since the government investigation began in late 1975. The company refuse to answer most of the questions submitted to it by the SEC, the court records show.
The SEC has asked the court to find the company in contempt for failing to comply with an SEC subpoena, as ordered in 1976 by Judge Hart.
The suit notes that when ITT learned of the SEC's probe in late 1973, it launched its own investigation. It turned up $3.8 million in payments made "to assist in developing or improving business opportunities and relationships in those countries."
The SEC calls the company probe, the results of which were included in ITT's 1975 annual report, "false and misleading." In August 1977, ITT pushed up the payments figure to $8.7 million in a new document filed with the SEC.
In its filling with the court, ITT has claimed that some of its own subsidiaries have refused to comply with the company's internal investigation.
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] includes allegations that ITT contributed $400,000 from 1970 to 1972 to help overthrow the Chilean government of then-President Salvador Ahende. Most of the allegations in the affair have already been made public.
The suit states ITT made the payments on instruction from "senior officials" at headquarters in New York, through three foreign subsidiaries - Bell Telephone in Belgium, ITT Standard S.A., Switzerland, and Standard Electrik Lorenz A.G., West Germany.
The Chilean payments were made through a fictitious company, Lonely Star Shipping, and disguised on ITT's books and records as expenses for "public relations" and "corporate relations."
In the suit, the SEC charges that the company regularly used "numbered bank accounts" to hide various transcations. It also alledged that ITT "aided and abetted violations of the [currency] exchange control laws of a number of countries."
These revelations may cause ITT legal problems in the countries named in the suit. They also could help explain why ITT fought so hard to block publication of the suit. The company had said disclosure would hurt its business relationships and its standing with various foreign governments.
The SEC says that in 1971, ITT acquired Fabbriche Ruinte Way Assauto S.A., an Italian manufacturer of automobile equipment, "ostensibly for $22 million cash."
Apparently quoting ITT sources, the SEC says the company arranged for $2 million in "black cash" to be skimmed from the transaction. This means ITT really paid only $20 million for the Italian company, but the SEC does not say what happened to the $2 million.
The suit also says that the unnamed sellers of the Italian company "overstated expenses through the use of fictitious invoices and then withdrew . . . unreported income as additional compensation."
The SEC alleges that ITT caused the sellers to establish a $4.4 million "guarantee" fund in the event Italian tax authorities uncovered the questionable transaction. "The irregular accounting practices continued after ITT's acquisition" of the Italian company, the SEC said.
In another series of transactions, the SEC alleges, an ITT Liechtenstein subsidiary, Micus Immobiliar and Finanzierungs Anstalt, was used to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars "for . . . evading the currency control and income tax laws of Italy and possibly of other countries."
In 1974, the complaint states, an ITT Italian subsidiary, the Gallino Group, deposited $611,000 cash in a Swiss bank account of the Liechtenstein subsidiary.
Another ITT subsidiary, this one in Spain, called Gallital Iberica S.A., violated the Spanish foreign exchange laws by transferring funds, the SEC said.