Bacardi has been indicted for making an illegal payment to a Republican political group whose founder lobbied against Bacardi's rival Cuban rum brand, according to press reports. The Independent on Sunday said over the weekend that the company has been charged with making an illegal payment of US$20,000.

On 21 September, the newspaper said, Bacardi USA was charged by a grand jury in Texas with making an "unlawful political contribution" to a political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. The committee was founded by, and is closely linked to, Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay, seen as one of Bacardi's staunchest supporters in Washington, the newspaper noted.

A copy of a cheque from Bacardi, issued on 3 July 2002 and carrying the company's bat logo, was filed among court papers seen by the paper. If convicted, Bacardi could be fined US$20,000.

The charge is one of 32 indictments against a dozen companies and individuals and is part of a sweeping investigation into whether corporate cash was illegally used to help Republicans win the 2002 Texas state elections, the newspaper said.

DeLay has dismissed the charge as electioneering.