Siemens manager paid bribes to Sani Abacha

A former manager from German engineering and electronics giant Siemens who was arrested this month has admitted paying massive bribes to the regime of late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, a report said on Friday.

The manager is among six current and former Siemens employees detained in a huge embezzlement probe into one of Germany’s leading companies, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported.

When contacted by Agence France-Presse, public prosecutors in Munich refused to comment.

The employees were “being questioned and some of them have been questioned a number of items. Some statements have been made,” a spokesperson for the prosecutors said, declining to elaborate.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung said that the former Siemens employee allegedly told investigators it was common to pay sweeteners in Africa to secure contracts.

The report said the employee was a middleman who channelled between €75 and €100-million a year to Nigeria through bank accounts in Austria in the 1990s.

When Switzerland brought in new laws obliging banks to open their accounts to prevent payments being made to corrupt regimes such as Abacha’s, Siemens became concerned that their payments through Austria would also be uncovered.

The company changed its approach, making the payments through a system of phantom invoices and shadow companies.

Abacha is suspected of having looted about $2,2-billion when he ruled Africa’s most populous nation from 1993 until his death in 1998.

The Siemens investigation is focusing on overseas slush funds containing around €200-million ($257-million), according to prosecutors in Munich who are leading the probe.

On Thursday, Siemens had promised to get tough on wrongdoers.

“We do not tolerate any illegal business practices of our employees in Germany and abroad,” the company said in a statement.

“We have substantially tightened conduct guidelines” and set up an anti-corruption task force.

And Siemens would immediately suspend any employees where suspicions of illegal behaviour had hardened.

“We have to relentlessly clarify and punish irregularities. Employees who violate our compliance regulations hurt Siemens in every respect.
We cannot tolerate,” said chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld.

In midday trading on the Frankfurt stock exchange on Friday, Siemens shares were among the low performers of the blue-chip DAX 30 index, showing a loss of €1,44 or 1,91% at €74,06 in a generally weaker market. - Sapa-AFP

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