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U.S. Supreme Court rejects mystery firm's bid over subpoena

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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request by a foreign-government-owned company over its bid to avoid paying penalties if it does not comply with a subpoena issued by a grand jury in a sealed case possibly linked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election.

The court in a brief order turned away a request filed by the company, which is facing daily fines imposed by a U.S. federal judge in Washington for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued in an investigation. The name of the country and the company and details of the investigation were not publicly disclosed.

There was no indication of how the nine justices voted.

As Mueller's probe already has implicated foreign entities, the subpoena could be linked to the investigation. Mueller's office has declined to comment. Russia has denied meddling in the election.

Mueller in February charged three Russian companies as part of a criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper in the election to support Republican President Donald Trump and disparage his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Mueller also has charged a series of Russian individuals.

When the appeals court heard oral arguments in the dispute, court officials sealed the courtroom, preventing reporters from identifying any of the lawyers involved.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act allows foreign countries to avoid being sued in U.S. courts, but does not cover commercial activities. The appeals court ruling indicated that the company has, among other things, questioned whether the law applies in a criminal case.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Dec. 23 put a temporary hold on the case while the justices decided how to proceed.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler)

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