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CRIME

Siemens director admits to setting up slush fund

The first hearing on corruption at Siemens began Monday with a defendant acknowledging the existence of a slush funds at the giant German industrial group.

Siemens director admits to setting up slush fund
Media angle for a shot of Siekaczek (r) on May 26. Photo:DPA

Reinhard Siekaczek, 58, a former head of Siemens’ fixed telephone unit ICN, said he had set up, with the approval of his superior, a fund used to pay kickbacks.

Some €53 million ($84 million) was paid into this fund over three years, he said.

In all, Siemens has acknowledged that €1.3 billion disappeared into various funds following an internal probe that began in late 2006.

Investigators have since determined that payments to obtain foreign contracts was a widespread practice among Siemens’ various divisions.

To date however, only one judicial ruling has been issued in connection with the affair.

In late 2007, a fine of €201 million was levied against the group’s communications systems division, which was the first identified as having made illicit payments.

The trial of Siekaczek marks the start of proceedings against individual managers suspected of having taken part in the kickback system.

Several senior Siemens directors have also been identified as suspects, but former boss Heinrich von Pierer, a high profile German industrial figure, is not expected to face serious charges and could at most be fined €1 million for dereliction of duty.

Von Pierer was forced to step down as head of the supervisory board of Siemens, a company he had run for 13 years, while current Siemens boss Peter Loescher was hired from outside the group to clear up the affair.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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