A firm that until last year provided food and water to 130,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to fraud. Supreme Group, according to court papers, "devised and implemented a scheme to overcharge the United States" in an $8.8 billion contract, the Justice Department says in a press release. Now, the Netherlands-based company will pay fines of $389 million, the Wall Street Journal reports. "This is about soldiers in the desert being charged outrageous amounts of money for something like water, all for money," says a judge. "That’s pretty low."
The scheme included charging some seven times what other suppliers would have charged for bottled water, resulting in an extra $48 million in costs. "We have gone to enormous steps to make sure this will never happen again," says a company officer, per Bloomberg. The deal doesn't bar Supreme from entering into new contracts with the US. The federal investigation followed a tip-off by a former Supreme employee. Several other contractors are also facing legal action amid fraud concerns, the Journal reports; in 2011, a congressional investigation found that contracted work had led to some $31 billion in waste.