Police have raided offices at Ford's European headquarters in Cologne and other nearby sites in connection with a probe into an alleged bribery scheme involving some of the carmaker's staff and suppliers.

Cologne prosecutor Christina Pohlen said that individual employees, not the auto maker itself, were the focus of the investigation, which was launched in September and involve allegations Ford workers accepted bribes from third-party contractors and other would-be suppliers.

Around 100 police officers were involved in the operation yesterday. Both Ford's European operations and the prosecutors' office said the carmaker had been cooperating with the probe since its start.

Police also raided the premises of a company in nearby Leverkusen and 30 other sites, including private homes. One person has been arrested.

Cologne prosecutors said they began the probe in September following investigations at another Ford plant in Saarbruecken.

According to allegations, Ford employees working in a facilities-management department received ‘material benefits’ from companies that had contracts with the carmaker or was seeking them.

In return they received preferential treatment or had fraudulent invoices drafted from them.

A Ford spokesman said the company estimated that the alleged corruption scheme had likely cost it several million euros and that it planned to seek damages from those found guilty of participating in the alleged scheme.

In a statement, the company said that it supported the raid, "as it serves to uncover crimes" that have caused it damages, and added that it had begun to review its compliance processes to see whether and where they needed to be strengthened.

Ford said it had already revised its processes for approving contracts and strengthened its controls around them.

As well as being the carmaker’s European HQ, Cologne is also the assembly plant for Fiesta and Fusion models.

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