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Ex-Siemens executive pleads guilty in US$100m bribery plot
[WASHINGTON] A former executive at German engineering giant Siemens pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Argentina, the US Justice Department announced.
The admission of guilt before a federal judge in New York marked a new high point in a decades-long legal saga in which American officials have pursued the company and its executives for a campaign of corruption that spanned the globe during the 1990s.
Siemens was a publicly traded company in the United States at the time.
Eberhard Reichert, 78, of Munich, Germany pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which criminalises bribing foreign government officials to win business.
He has yet to be sentenced.
In a landmark case, Siemens in 2008 settled with US and German officials. It pleaded guilty to paying bribes in more than 20 countries around the world and paid US$1.6 billion in fines and the return of ill-gotten gains.
Reichert was one of nine individuals charged in 2011 by the US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for their roles in the bribery scheme.
Andres Truppel, the former chief financial officer of Siemens Argentina, pleaded guilty under the same indictment in 2015 but has yet to be sentenced.
"Eberhard Reichert tried to sidestep laws designed to root corruption out of the government contracting process," Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
"Today's plea should be a warning to others that our office is committed to bringing corrupt criminals to justice, no matter how long they run from the law."
Reichert, who left Siemens in 2001 after 37 years with the company, had served as technical manager for projects in Siemens' business services arm.
In 1998, Argentina awarded Siemens a US$1 billion contract to develop identity cards but terminated the project three years later.
Reichert admitted Thursday he had participated in a decade-long scheme to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Argentine officials.
Siemens had committed to paying nearly US$100 million in bribes to Argentine government officials, members of the political opposition and candidates for office, according to federal prosecutors.
US officials have said bribes were paid up to and including the president but former president Carlos Menem has reportedly denied wrongdoing.
Reichert was arrested in September while in Croatia and agreed to be extradited to the United States in December. Germany generally does not extradite its own citizens.