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CORRUPTION

Siemens close to deal with US over scandal charges

German industrial giant Siemens is close to reaching agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on a fine in connection with a corruption scandal, a press report said on Thursday.

Siemens close to deal with US over scandal charges
Photo: DPA

“We hope to reach an accord with the SEC before Christmas,” a source close to the Siemens supervisory board told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Board members were advised to be available for an extraordinary meeting and “if necessary, we will get together on December 23,” the source said. Otherwise a deal was expected by early 2009 at the latest.

Talks with German justice officials were also close to a conclusion, the newspaper added.

The affair has weighed heavily on Siemens, which makes everything from nuclear power stations to trains and light bulbs, and employs some 400,000 people worldwide.

The 161-year-old conglomerate has acknowledged that up to €1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) may have been used illegally to win foreign contracts.

Siemens found the practice was widespread across its numerous divisions. Prosecutors have investigated around 300 people in connection with the affair. It led to the resignation of a string of top executives, including chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld and his long-term predecessor and chairman of the board, Heinrich von Pierer.

Because it has listed shares on the New York Stock exchange since 2001, Siemens risked a heavy fine from the SEC.

The German group recently took provisions of €1 billion against potential fines in both Germany and the United States.

US

Germany welcomes US troop withdrawal freeze under Biden

The German government on Friday welcomed a decision by President Joe Biden to put on hold plans to reduce US troops in Germany, saying their presence was in the countries' mutual interest.

Germany welcomes US troop withdrawal freeze under Biden
An American soldier stationed in Germany, in front of Dresden's Military History Museum in 2016. Photo: DPA

“We have always been convinced that American troops being stationed here in Germany serves European and transatlantic security and hence is in our mutual interest,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

As part of a major foreign and security policy overhaul presented Thursday, Biden announced a freeze on plans set in motion by his predecessor Donald Trump to reduce the US troop presence in Germany, a cornerstone of NATO security since the start of the Cold War.

READ ALSO: What could Joe Biden as US president mean for Germany?

Trump's decision was seen as linked to his tense relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and his frequent complaints that Europe's top economy spent too little on defence.

The United States has had US troops stationed in Germany since World War II but their numbers have declined since the fall of the Berlin Wall from some 200,000 soldiers in 1990 to 34,500 today.

Although the prospect had been looming for years, Trump's decision in July to redeploy 12,000 soldiers from Germany still came as a shock, particularly to towns that have built strong economic and cultural ties to the US military.

READ ALSO: Trump to withdraw 'thousands of US soldiers from Germany' under Biden

“We strongly value the close, decades-long cooperation with the American troops stationed in Germany,” Seibert said.

He said the communities hosting GIs appreciated their presence, calling the bases “part of the lived transatlantic friendship”.  

Seibert said German officials were in “consultations” with the US administration about “further planning” but that the decision how to shape the future American military footprint in Europe was a “US domestic issue”.

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