The following blog post has been contributed by SSD’s Andreas Fillmann.
The attorneys of a former member of Siemens AG’s management board, Thomas Ganswindt, have won a first victory in Mr. Ganswindt’s recently opened criminal trial. The trial, taking place in a Munich regional court to determine his involvement in a Siemens corruption scandal, was adjourned 20 minutes after it began. Mr. Ganswindt faces accusations of tax evasion and neglecting to stop bribes paid in Nigeria and Russia. He is the first senior executive to stand trial in the investigation.
The trial was adjourned following a defense motion by one of Mr. Ganswindt’s defense lawyers, Michael Rosenthal, who sought an additional judge on the case. Mr. Rosenthal argued that, due to the complexity of the matter, three processional judges should hear the case instead of two, together with two lay judges. Further, Mr. Ganswindt’s defense team argued that although tax evasion is a crime, inadequate supervision of a company is only an administrative offense under German law.
Mr. Ganswindt headed up Siemens’ telecommunications business, one of the groups alleged to have been heavily involved in bribery payments, from 2004 to 2006. He then joined the company’s central management board. The Siemens corruption scandal began in 2006 and has led to investigations in at least 12 countries. Prosecutors and Siemens’ own internal investigations found that company officials made more than US$1 billion in payments to third parties. In 2008 the company agreed to pay US$1.6 billion to settle cases in the United States and Germany.
Almost all members of the senior management team have left the company in the wake of the bribery cases, according to reports. Other managers including former management board members Uriel Sharef and Heinz-Joachim Neubuerger, who also served as chief financial officer, are still under investigation. So far, Siemens has sued Mr. Ganswindt for €5 million and Mr. Neubuerger for €15 million in damages because of their failing to put a stop to the payments. Other former executives settled with Siemens including former chief executive officer Heinrich von Pierer, who paid €5 million.
Following the Siemens scandal, implementing corporate compliance procedures has been a growing priority for Germany’s business leaders.