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Six Siemens Execs Jailed in Bribery Scandal
Newspaper reports around 200 Million euros in payoffs
Hartmut Kaiser (emperor)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-24 12:07 (KST)   
On Thursday, Suedeutsche Zeitung revealed that some top executives of the
German industrial giant Siemens had started a criminal network in the late 1990s

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der to bribe foreign government officials.

The newspaper reported that the money from Siemens was illegally transferred in cash to an account in Salzburg, Austria. Other accounts probably existed in Switzerland and Italy. It was then used for bribery in countries like Nigeria, and very likely also for getting orders worth 궗250 million (US$324 million) for Siemens for the Olympic Summer games in Greece in 2004. 궗 5 million ($6.4 million) of bribery money was allegedly destined for Goldman Sachs, and Syrian government official were also allegedly bribed.

The public prosecutors in Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria are currently continuing their investigation.

On Friday, Sept. 29, 2006 the front page news in German newspapers was that the German part of the mobile phone division of the Taiwanese company BenQ, which had belonged to Siemens until one year ago, had filed for bankruptcy. Siemens had handed over its mobile phone division to BenQ together with a gift of hundreds of millions of euros as a part of the new Siemens CEO's plan to get rid off all loss-making divisions.

The bankruptcy costs 1,600 jobs at the mobile phone assembly lines in Kamp-Lintfort/Northrhine-Westphalia and an additional 1,400 engineering and office jobs in Munich/Bavaria. This event is only one among many similar in the process of decline and breakup of Siemens, one of Germany's most venerable companies.

In 1847, Werner von Siemens founded the company to manufacture telegraphs, insulation for wires, and water meters, among other electrical products. The company soon became a famous pioneer of early globalization by building the telegraph line to Calcutta (1867-1870), and laying a transatlantic cable through the Atlantic ocean in 1870.

In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Siemens was present in 49 different countries. The company thrived with products like the electron microscope, radios, electrical household devices and medical equipment like X-ray machines. Siemens successfully survived both the Great Depression and World War II, and after the war, due to the Cold War many parts of the company, including the top management, were moved from isolated West Berlin to Munich, Bavaria.

Although Siemens is a publicly traded stock company , the CEOs of Siemens until 1968 were all descendants of Werner von Siemens or other members of the Siemens family.

The company's breakup began in 1999 when first the passive electronic devices division was split off under the brand name "Epcos." In the same year the semiconductor division, which suffered from fierce competition from the Korean company Samsung, was split off under the brand name "Infineon," Both of these moves resulted in the layoffs of thousands of employees in Germany and movement of office jobs to Prague, Czech Republic and assembly plants to places like Wuxi, China or Penang, Malaysia. Infineon was split up further this year as its memory chip division went public under the name "Qimonda."

The land-line telephone division of Siemens is due to be taken over by the Finnish company Nokia this October, and it is quite probable that this will cost a lot more German employees their jobs. Furthermore, the Siemens division "Siemens Business Systems," with more than 36,000 employees, still awaits restructuring. Only about one-third of Siemens' about 460,000 employees are still employed in Germany, and this number is falling. Employment has been created mainly in Asia and Eastern Europe.

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Hartmut Kaiser

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