The governor of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo called for an investigation after Wednesday's publication of claims by a former Alstom SA executive that the French manufacturer of trains and power equipment paid bribes to obtain a public contract in the state 16 years ago.

"The director of the firm says there was payment of bribes in 1998. The firm denies it, so it is necessary to investigate," Geraldo Alckmin told reporters.

A former Alstom sales executive, Andre Botto, admitted in a French court that the firm paid a commission of 15 percent to obtain a $45.7 million government contract in 1998, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said Wednesday, citing what it said were legal documents.

Brazil's anti-trust agency, Cade, earlier found indications that some foreign engineering giants, including Alstom and Germany's Siemens, had conspired to carve up train-maintenance contracts in Sao Paulo.

The Cade investigation is also looking at Canadian giant Bombardier, Japan's Mitsui and the Spanish firms Caf and Temoinsa.

Alstom denies the bribery allegations.

Reacting to the Cade probe, Switzerland's bankers association moved in November to block several accounts ostensibly used by Alstom and Siemens to channel bribes to Brazilian officials. EFE