First Trial Begins in Siemens Bribery Scandal

Johannes Feldmayer is charged with channeling of tens of millions (dollars to an association of works councils in a bid to create a counterweight to the powerful IG Metall union.

A damaging bribery scandal at German conglomerate Siemens came to court for the first time on Sept. 24 as a former board member went on trial charged with breach of trust. Johannes Feldmayer is on trial for his alleged role in the channeling of tens of millions dollars to an association of works councils in a bid to create a counterweight to the powerful IG Metall union.

He was arrested last year while still a member of the Munich-based giant's executive board and spent nine days in police custody.

The former head of the small AUB independent works council association, Wilhelm Schelsky, is also on trial accused of receiving 35 million euros (US$51 million), some of which he allegedly used for private purposes.

The affair is the second major scandal to rock Siemens, which makes everything from nuclear power stations to trains and light bulbs and employs some 400,000 people worldwide. The 161-year-old firm is also engulfed in a massive slush-fund scandal, in which the sprawling conglomerate has acknowledged that up to 1.3 billion euros (US$2.8 billion) may have been used illegally to win foreign contracts.

The conglomerate found the practice was widespread across its numerous divisions. Prosecutors are investigating around 300 people in connection with the affair. It led to the resignation of a string of top Siemens executives, including chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld and his long-term predecessor and chairman of the board Heinrich von Pierer.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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