First Siemens bribery scandal trial starts in Nuremberg

First Siemens bribery scandal trial starts in Nuremberg
Johannes Feldmayer in court. Photo: DPA
A damaging bribery scandal at German conglomerate Siemens came to court in Nuremberg for the first time on Wednesday as a former board member went on trial charged with breach of trust.

Johannes Feldmayer is on trial for his alleged role in the channeling of tens of millions of euros to an association of works councils in a bid to create a counterweight to the powerful IG Metall union. He was arrested last year while still a member of the Munich-based giant’s executive board and spent nine days in police custody.

The former head of the small AUB independent works council association, Wilhelm Schelsky, is also on trial accused of receiving €35 million ($51 million), some of which he allegedly used for private purposes.

“I didn’t see that the AUB works council elections would be influenced with the funds,” Feldmayer said in court on Wednesday. “It was about building up business locations, it was about administrative work. It wasn’t about supporting some AUB candidates in some form or trying to influence their behaviour.”

The affair is the second major scandal to rock Siemens, which makes everything from nuclear power stations to trains and light bulbs and employs some 400,000 people worldwide.

The 161-year-old firm is also engulfed in a massive slush-fund scandal, in which the sprawling conglomerate has acknowledged that up to €1.3 billion ($2.8 billion) may have been used illegally to win foreign contracts. The conglomerate found the practice was widespread across its numerous divisions. Prosecutors are investigating around 300 people in connection with the affair.

It led to the resignation of a string of top Siemens executives, including chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld and his long-term predecessor and chairman of the board Heinrich von Pierer.