An Italian magistrate and a German corporate lawyer warned electronics and engineering multinational Siemens from 2003 that slush funds to provide kickbacks were common practice at the company, according to news reports Saturday. ( dpa )
The allegations could prove an embarrassment to Heinrich von Pierer, the former chief executive of the group, which is assisting prosecutors to uncover the corruption as it makes a clean start.
The claims were sourced to Albrecht Schaefer, formerly chief legal officer at the group, who insists he tried to prevent kickbacks, such as those paid to corrupt officials at Italian company Enel and in other markets.
The website of the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said he had told Munich prosecutors that an examining magistrate in Milan, Italy, found in 2003 that slush funds were a "typical" phenomenon at Siemens, particularly in its division supplying power turbines.
The magistrate's finding was that the existence of the funds indicated that Siemens corporate supervisors were ineffective and regarded kickbacks as a possible strategy.
Schaefer said he passed the finding to the company's top board on May 3, 2004, and Pierer was noted as having seen it.
Pierer has insisted he was not aware at that time that slush funds existed.
Asked for comment Saturday, a Siemens spokesman said the company did not comment on investigations while they were in progress, but was cooperating with the authorities.
Prosecutors also told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa they could not comment.
The Sueddeutsche said Schaefer testified he first told the board in November 2003.
The news weekly Der Spiegel also said documents from 2004 that uncovered the corruption had been marked for Pierer to read.