Former Siemens executives and agents of the industrial giant have been charged in the United States with allegedly bribing Argentine government officials, U.S. authorities said on Dec. 13. The nine, including a former member of Siemens' central executive committee, were accused of involvement in a scheme to secure a $1 billion contract with the Argentine government to produce national identity cards, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said.
The New York indictment charges eight Siemens executives or agents with conspiracy to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.The money laundering charge could bring up to 20 years in prison.
The eight are Uriel Sharef, the former executive committee member, Herbert Steffen, a former chief executive of Siemens Argentina, Andres Truppel, a former chief financial officer of Siemens Argentina, Ulrich Bock, Stephan Signer and Eberhard Reichert, former senior executives of Siemens Business Services, and Carlos Sergi and Miguel Czysch, who allegedly served as agents of Siemens in the bribe scheme.
Sharef, Steffen, Truppel, Bock, Signer, Sergi and an additional defendant, Bernd Regendantz, a former chief financial officer of Siemens Business Services, are also facing charges from the SEC.
Siemens agreed in 2008 to pay $1.6 billion to the U.S. and German authorities to resolve corrupt practices charges in connection with the case, and helped in the investigation of those newly charged, officials said.
The former Siemens executives and agents were indicted by a grand jury in New York state and also face charges filed by the SEC in a parallel action.
"Today's indictment alleges a shocking level of deception and corruption," U.S. assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said.
Breuer said the group committed to pay more than $100 million in bribes to high-level Argentine officials to win the contract, and that eventually some $60 million was paid -- at least $25 million funneled through the United States. "Business should be won or lost on the merits of a company's products and services, not the amount of bribes paid to government officials," he said.
"The defendants in this case bribed Argentine government officials in two successive administrations and paid off countless others in a successful effort to secure a billion dollar contract," said Preet Bharara, US attorney for the southern district of New York. "When the project was terminated, they even sought to recover the profits they would have reaped from a contract that was awarded to them illegitimately in the first place."
All remain outside the country, in Argentina, Switzerland, Germany and elsewhere, and the U.S. is liaising with foreign authorities in tracking them down, Breuer said. No Argentine recipients of the bribes were named in the charge documents that were released.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011