German multinational Siemens and France's Alstom set up shell corporations in Uruguay as part of a scheme to pay kickbacks to officials at Brazilian state-owned companies who favored them in tender proceedings, O Estado de Sao Paulo daily said Thursday.

Three companies were created in Uruguay to facilitate the illegal payments while ostensibly acting as advisers to Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos, a commuter rail company owned by the Sao Paulo state government, the newspaper said, citing unnamed Brazilian and Swiss investigators.

The companies were incorporated in Uruguay under the names Gantown, Leraway and GHT Consulting, but none of the three is registered as a specialized consultant on railway and metro systems.

No investigation has been launched in Uruguay because no formal judicial request has been received from Brazil, Uruguayan prosecutor Juan Gomez told the daily.

Swiss authorities, meanwhile, said Alstom signed contracts in 1999 with Gantown and GHT Consulting and said both were "recipients of (irregular) commissions."

Siemens, for its part, signed two identical contracts with Gantown and Leraway in 2000, supposedly to provide consulting services related to Line 5 of the Sao Paulo metro. Those deals were the most lucrative contracts denounced by Brazilian regulators.

A Brazilian court in February barred Siemens from bidding on Brazilian federal contracts for five years due to suspected kickback payments, a ruling the company said it would appeal.

Canada's Bombardier, Spain's Caf and other large railway sector companies also are being investigated for alleged collusion in the awarding of train maintenance contracts in Sao Paulo state between 1998 and 2002. EFE