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Entries in Germany (76)

Friday
Feb122010

Daimler Settlement Reported

A Bloomberg story today in Business Week here says Daimler AG will pay "about $200 million and two subsidiaries will plead guilty to resolve a U.S. investigation into whether it paid bribes to secure business overseas, according to people familiar with the accord."

Bloomberg said the deal still needs approval by federal district court judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C.

The story quoted a Daimler spokesperson as saying: “We are in discussions with the DOJ and the SEC regarding consensually resolving the agencies’ investigations.” The spokesperson was identified as Ute Wuest von Vellberg, from Stuttgart, Germany. “There can be no assurance about whether and when settlement with the DOJ and the SEC will become final and effective," he said in an interview.

The FCPA investigation into Daimler began in 2004, triggered by the firing of an alleged whistleblower from the audit group at DaimlerChrysler Corp., Daimler's former affiliate.

We'll update this story as it develops.

Special thanks to Marc Bohn for his help with this post.

Sunday
Dec132009

MAN Group Fined €150.6 Million For Bribery

German truck maker MAN Group said on Friday that two subsidiaries will pay fines of €75.3 million each to German authorities to resolve corruption charges first disclosed in May this year (here). The fines were imposed against MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG (the commercial vehicles division) and MAN Turbo AG (the compressors / turbines division) by the public prosecutors' office in the Munich District Court. The company announced at the same time a €20 million settlement with German authorities for unpaid taxes. MAN's releases about the settlements are here and here.

The company separately disclosed (here) that two executive board members of MAN Turbo had resigned "to clear the way for new management." Dr. Gerhard Reiff had been on the board since 2005 and Dr. Stephan Funke since 2007.

MAN's internal investigation uncovered suspicious payments of €51.6 million relating to around 80 transactions. The payments were found in a number of countries and most were through agents and other intermediaries. The company said it has fired 20 employees and is considering suing them for damages. It didn't disclose the countries involved or who may have received illegal payments in the form of "so-called referral commissions." The internal investigation involved "around 70 lawyers, auditors and tax experts . . . working since mid-May to analyze the suspicious payments made in the last ten years at all of MAN’s subgroups."

MAN is Germany's second largest truck, bus and diesel-engine manufacturer behind Daimler AG. It reported revenue in 2008 of €14.9 billion and has 51,000 employees worldwide.

The company said it launched a compliance initiative in July. It said it will disclose to prosecutors any future suspected bribery cases and cooperate with them, establish a revamped compliance office on January 1, 2010 reporting directly to the executive board, provide hands-on compliance training to all employees in sales, purchasing, and marketing jobs, use an IT system designed to reveal any suspicious payments, abolish "referral commissions," and impose due diligence requirements on all agents. MAN said it will also continue talks with various anti-corruption NGOs about joint projects.

The company is listed on the German DAX and its largest shareholder is Volkswagen. MAN AG's ADRs trade on the over-the-counter pink sheets under the symbol MAGOY.PK. It hasn't disclosed any investigations by the U.S. Justice Department or SEC.

Monday
Nov232009

Ex-ABB Manager Arrested, Mexican Agent Pleads Guilty

The Justice Department announced on Monday (November 23) the arrest of the former general manager of a Sugar Land, Texas-based ABB subsidiary for his alleged role in a conspiracy to bribe Mexican government officials. The bribes were allegedly intended to secure contracts with the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), a Mexican state-owned utility company. The DOJ also said a Mexican citizen who acted as a middleman pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating in the investigation.

The DOJ charged John Joseph O'Shea, 57, of Pleasanton, California, in an 18-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Houston on November 16. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (18 U.S.C. § 371), 12 counts of violating the FCPA (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2 et seq), four counts of international money laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956), and one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation (18 U.S.C. § 1519).

Although not named in the DOJ release or charging documents, ABB has confirmed that O'Shea was its employee. Fortune carried this statement from the company: "The individual is a former employee of an ABB unit in Texas. He was terminated in the fall of 2004. ABB continues to cooperate with U.S. authorities."

O'Shea hired Fernando Maya Basurto, 47, of Mexico City, to act as the Texas unit's sales agent in Mexico. Under his contract, Basurto received a percentage of sales as his commission. In December 1997, CFE awarded the Texas business unit a contract, known as the SITRACEN contract, to upgrade the backbone of Mexico's electrical network system. The SITRACEN contract generated more than $44 million dollars in revenue for ABB's Texas business unit. In October 2003, CFE also awarded it a multi-year contract for maintenance and upgrades of the SITRACEN contract that generated more than $37 million in revenue.

According to the indictment, O'Shea and Basurto agreed to pay 10 percent of the revenues from the SITRACEN contract to officials at CFE. And for the Evergreen contract, O'Shea authorized more than $900,000 in bribes to CFE officials. He also took a kickback of 1 percent. The indictment alleges that O'Shea, Basurto and others covered up the bribery after ABB fired O'Shea. They fabricated documents that "purported to be evidence of a legitimate business relationship between the Texas business unit and the Mexican companies that provided the false invoices." The indictment described emails between Basurto and O'Shea in which they discussed creating fake correspondence and a phony contract.

ABB discovered the alleged bribery and fraud during an internal investigation. It self-disclosed the payments and related activities to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission and helped with their investigations.

Basurto was first arrested in Dallas in April on a criminal complaint charging him with conspiracy to structure transactions and structuring transactions to evade currency reporting requirements. He was later indicted on the same charges on June 10, 2009. As part of his plea deal, the DOJ filed a superseding criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, to launder money, and to falsify records. The information said jurisdiction over Basurto was based on his being "an agent of a domestic concern, as that term is defined in the FCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2(h)(1)."

He pleaded guilty on November 16 in Houston. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice his gain or the victim's loss caused by his crimes. The Justice Department hasn't announced his sentencing date.

Basurto's indictment gave details of the bribes. It said, for example:

Basurto would maintain control over all of these funds [from the Texas business unit] and would, at CFE Official C's instruction, wire funds from these accounts to a Merrill Lynch brokerage account. CFE Official C would then cause some of these funds to be further transferred to the son-in-law of CFE Official N and to the brother of CFE Official C. Basurto would follow additional instructions from CFE Official C concerning the "Good Guys" funds, including giving CFE Official C approximately $20,000 in cash.

For O'Shea, the conspiracy and falsification of records counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. Each of the 12 substantive FCPA counts carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The four international money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The indictment also gives notice of criminal forfeiture.

 The DOJ said German authorities assisted in the investigation. Payments allegely were made to the CFE officials through German banks and accounts there.

In July 2004, ABB and two subsidiaries disgorged $5.9 million and paid a $10.5 million penalty for FCPA violations involving Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan. In a 2007 earnings release, ABB said it disclosed to the DOJ and SEC "suspect payments made by employees of company subsidiaries in Asia, South America and Europe, in particular Italy. These suspect payments were discovered as a result of ABB's internal audit and compliance program." See our post here.

As the DOJ says, an indictment is merely an accusation, and O’Shea is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

View the DOJ's November 23, 2009 release here.

Download the November 16, 2009 criminal indictment in US v. John Joseph O'Shea here.

Download the November 16, 2009 superseding criminal information in US v. Fernando Maya Basurto here.

Download Basurto's plea agreement with the Justice Department here.

Sunday
Oct182009

The Story Of Graft

Transparency International's Global Corruption Report 2009 is here. At 462 pages, it may be the most complete account of global corruption and anti-bribery efforts ever assembled. Reference books like this are both important and fun; you don't need to read from front to back, first page to last. Dive in anywhere -- at the country reports, narrative chapters, footnotes, tables, sidebars, illustrations or research, even the index. It's all worthwhile. Here, from a couple of random dives, is what we mean:

  • The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act "established the first comprehensive prohibition by any country against bribing foreign government officials for business purposes. The FCPA bans the use of bribery to obtain or retain business or to secure any other undue business advantage, and imposes strict record-keeping requirements for public companies. While enforcement in the early years was limited, it has increased markedly since the United States ratified the OECD Convention in 1998. From 2003 to 2007 the average number of new FCPA enforcement actions nearly tripled compared to the preceding five-year period."
  • "In France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, all major foreign investors and exporters and more than 80 per cent of surveyed executives admitted to ‘not being familiar at all’ with one of the most important legal frameworks in global business, the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Only a third or so of companies surveyed by other polls in the construction and power sector -- industries with high corruption risks -- had training programs for executives on how to avoid corruption."
  • "Almost 90 per cent of the top 200 businesses worldwide have adopted business codes, but fewer than half report that they monitor compliance. Although more than 3,000 companies have published CSR [corporate social responsibility] reports in 2007, fewer than a third were verified through independent assurance."
  • Enforcement of foreign bribery cases has increased in France, Germany and the United States. "[T]here is still little or no enforcement in . . . Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom." In 2008, France brought 19 enforcement actions and had 16 ongoing investigations; Japan brought one case and had an unknown number of ongoing investigations.
  • Globally, nearly forty percent of polled business executives have been asked to pay a bribe when dealing with public institutions. Half estimated that corruption raised project costs by at least 10 percent. Twenty percent claimed to have lost business because of bribes by a competitor. More than a third felt that corruption is getting worse.
  • "In developing and transition countries alone, corrupt politicians and government officials receive bribes believed to total between US$20 and 40 billion annually – the equivalent of some 20 to 40 per cent of official development assistance."
  • "When corruption allows reckless companies to disregard the law, the consequences range from water shortages in Spain, exploitative work conditions in China or illegal logging in Indonesia to unsafe medicines in Nigeria and poorly constructed buildings in Turkey that collapse with deadly consequences. Even facilitation payments -- the many, often small payments made by companies to ‘get things done’ -- are found to be harmful, as they are funneled up through the system and help nurture and sustain corrupt bureaucracies, political parties and governments."
Transparency International's Global Corruption Report 2009: Corruption and the Private Sector can be downloaded here.

Disclosure: We acted as a peer reviewer for this publication.
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Thursday
May142009

Graft Allegations Against MAN

Prosecutors in Munich think German truck-maker MAN AG paid bribes to customers between 2002 and 2005 of around €14 million to boost sales. According to recent reports (here), some of the alleged payments inside and outside Germany were concealed by being routed through bank accounts of relatives and friends of MAN employees.

MAN is Germany's second largest truck, bus and diesel-engine manufacturer behind Daimler AG. It reported sales in 2008 of €14.9 billion and has 51,000 employees worldwide. MAN is listed on the German DAX and its largest shareholder is Volkswagen.

Prosecutors said they're investigating "well over 100" people alleged to be involved -- including both marketing staff at MAN and customers suspected of having taken bribes. Reports said about 300 police personnel across Germany are now involved in the investigation. So far, two people have been arrested but one was released.

MAN itself has reacted to the allegations -- which are sensitive in Germany following resolution late last year of Siemens' global corruption scandal -- by announcing its own internal investigation. It said in press releases last week (here and here) that it has hired "an external auditing firm to fully clear up suspicion of improper commission payments alongside its own auditing department." MAN said it has already fired some employees found to be involved in the graft and will share all of its findings with prosecutors. It said it may also sue ex-employees found to have violated the law.

Prosecutors apparently started their investigation after a tip from tax authorities. Reports said MAN's top management hasn't yet been implicated.

In a public statement, MAN said: Compulsory conduct guidelines and clear rules that have been further developed in recent years apply to all employees at MAN. They forbid MAN Group employees from conferring benefits of any kind with the aim of obtaining orders or unfair advantages for MAN or other persons. In addition, MAN’s compliance system includes a compliance officer and a steering committee tasked with enforcing the rules, a compliance hotline and two external ombudspersons who employees can also contact anonymously.

U.S. authorities may not have jurisdiction over MAN under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Unlike Siemens, the company has no securities traded on a U.S. exchange and doesn't have any large U.S. operations.

Our thanks to the readers who sent us links to the stories about MAN.

* * *
Some final words about Memorial Day. They're from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., from a talk delivered May 30, 1884 at Keene, New Hampshire (here). In 1861, during his senior year at Harvard, Holmes enlisted in the army. He saw action during the Civil War and was wounded three times -- at Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Fredericksburg:

Such hearts—ah me, how many!—were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year—in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life—there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple boughs and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier's grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march—honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a pæan. I see beyond the forest the moving barriers of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death—of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and glory of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.
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Thursday
Dec182008

Foreign Affairs

Our singular focus over the past week moved our spouse to ask whether we also plan to redo the walls in Siemens Blue. We're considering it. But what really comes to mind after the biggest FCPA enforcement action in history is that it involves not a U.S. company -- not a Boeing or an Exxon or a GE -- but "a corporation organized under the laws of Germany with its principal offices in Berlin and Munich." It was snared by the FCPA because, as the Justice Department's Information put it: "As of March 12, 2001, Siemens was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and was an 'issuer' as that term is used in the FCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1(a). By virtue of its status as an issuer, Siemens was required to comply with the provisions of the FCPA."

We shouldn't be too surprised that the big hammer fell on a foreign company. Since 1998, the pace of investigations and enforcement actions involving foreign companies has accelerated. In addition to Siemens, overseas names in the FCPA news include ABB Ltd (Switzerland), Vetco Gray UK Ltd, Akzo Nobel, NV (the Netherlands), Statoil ASA (Norway), AstraZeneca (UK-Sweden), BAE Systems (UK), DaimlerChrysler (Germany), Innospec (UK), Magyar Telekom (Hungary), Norsk Hydro (Norway), Novo Nordisk (Denmark), Panalpina (Switzerland), Smith & Nephew (UK) and Total (France), among others.

Outside America's borders, its globo-cop role may not sit well with everyone (it makes a lot of Americans uneasy, too). But the FCPA's long reach and sharp teeth are changing global business practices. Our favorite pundit said it was probably the threat of criminal prosecution under the FCPA that finally scared Siemens enough to come clean. That's what Congress had in mind in 1998 when it expanded the FCPA to cover foreign companies that weren't issuers when they act unlawfully while within the territory of the U.S. ; American businesses needed a more level playing field.

But fighting public graft is also the right thing to do. A. A. Sommer, Jr., a commissioner of the SEC, said in 1976, a year before enactment of the FCPA, that "there are moral problems as well as legal problems that go far beyond simply the question of illegal payoffs to foreign officials. There are questions concerning the role of multi­national corporations, the extent to which they have obligations to the countries in which they conduct their business, the extent to which they should seek to raise the standards of conduct there, the respect which they should show the laws of other countries." Thirty-two years later the Wall Street Journal could say that the quixotic Foreign Corrupt Practices Act had turned into one of Congress's finer moments.

The DOJ's Matthew Friedrich summed up the case this week with these words:

For let there be no doubt that corruption is not a victimless offense. Corruption is not a gentlemen's agreement where no one gets hurt. People do get hurt. And the people who are hurt the worst are often residents of the poorest countries on the face of the earth, especially where it occurs in the context of government infrastructure projects, contracts in which crucial development decisions are made, in which a country will live by those decisions for good or for bad for years down the road, and where those decisions are made using precious and scarce national resources.
That's why the fight against international public corruption is worthwhile, and why the FCPA makes sense.
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Monday
Dec152008

Final Settlements For Siemens

As expected, Siemens AG pleaded guilty Monday to violating the internal controls and books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, reaching settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Also on Monday, Siemens resolved charges by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office based on its corporate failure to supervise its officers and employees.

It will pay a criminal fine of $450 million in the DOJ settlement and $350 million in disgorgement of profits under its agreement with the SEC. In the German case, it will pay €395 million (about $569 million), on top of the €201 million it paid in October 2007 to settle a related action brought by the Munich Public Prosecutor.

In Monday's hearing in Washington, D.C. before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, the German industrial giant pleaded guilty to one count each of violating the FCPA's internal controls and books and records provisions. Its Argentina subsidiary also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the books and records provisions of the FCPA, and its Bangladesh and Venezuela subsidiaries pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery and books and records provisions.

The U.S. dispositions require appointment of a compliance monitor for four years. Siemens has already named Theo Weigel, a lawyer who served in the German Parliament and as the country's finance minister.

In a sign that U.S. prosecutions of individuals tied to the case may follow, the DOJ said Siemens "also agreed to continue fully cooperating with the Department in ongoing investigations of corrupt payments by company employees and agents."

At a press conference after Monday's hearing, Matthew Friedrich, the Acting Assistant Attorney General at the DOJ's Criminal Division, said the Justice Department "in recent years significantly increased its FCPA enforcement. From 2001 to 2004, the Department resolved or charged 17 FCPA cases. For the period of 2005 to 2008, that number is 42 resolutions, representing an increase of more than 200 percent within these four years as compared to the prior four-year period."

What's potentially even more significant, he said, is that fighting public corruption has gone global:

Through international instruments like the OECD convention and the U.N. convention against corruption, we have seen our international partners significantly step up their anti-corruption efforts. Everything we're seeing suggests that this trend will continue. South Africa, for example, became the 37th country and the first African nation to become a party to the OECD convention in 2007. Israel followed suit in September of this year, becoming the 38th signatory.
And on the nature of graft and why the fight against it is important, he said:
For let there be no doubt that corruption is not a victimless offense. Corruption is not a gentlemen's agreement where no one gets hurt. People do get hurt. And the people who are hurt the worst are often residents of the poorest countries on the face of the earth, especially where it occurs in the context of government infrastructure projects, contracts in which crucial development decisions are made, in which a country will live by those decisions for good or for bad for years down the road, and where those decisions are made using precious and scarce national resources.
_____________

View a copy of the DOJ's Dec. 15, 2008 release here.

Download a copy of the DOJ's Dec. 15, 2008 plea offer here.

View a transcript of the DOJ's Dec. 15, 2008 press conference here.

Download the DOJ's charging documents, sentencing memo and joint statement at the bottom of our prior post here.

View the SEC's Litigation Release No. 20829 (December 15, 2008) and Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 2911 (December 15, 2008) in Securities and Exchange Commission v. Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, Civil Action No. 08 CV 02167 (D.D.C.) here.

Download the SEC's complaint against Siemens here.

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Thursday
Nov062008

Siemens Announces €1 Billion Reserve

Siemens AG said yesterday that it has reserved €1 billion in fiscal 2008 "in connection with the settlement being sought by the company and with authorities in Germany and the United States." The short statement also said, "This current estimate is based on the status of ongoing discussions being held between the company and authorities in Germany and the U.S. The company will make no further comments on the ongoing proceedings."

The statement is available here.

The amount of the reserve for a possible settlement with U.S. authorities is lower than expected.

Siemens has admitted that its questionable payments around the globe amounted to at least €1.3 billion. In addition to Germany and the U.S., the company faces corruption investigations in Switzerland, Italy, Greece, China, Hungary, Russia, Norway, and Indonesia.

Earlier this year, Siemens said it plans to sue nearly a dozen former executives, including two former chief executives, for failing to prevent the company's corrupt practices. It also agreed last year to pay a fine in German proceedings of €201 million.

Siemens had hoped to settle the U.S. proceedings by late 2007. Its talks then with U.S. authorities were apparently derailed when the company found that the scope of its global corruption was more extensive than originally disclosed.

View our prior posts about Siemens here.

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Monday
Aug182008

Trouble For Siemens In South America

Scandal-plagued Siemens now faces possible charges of public corruption in Argentina. Police in Buenos Aires raided Siemens' office there in connection with a bribery investigation. The United States, Greece, Italy, China, Hungary, Indonesia and Norway are also investigating whether Siemens broke anti-corruption laws.

Here's a dispatch from the August 16, 2008 online edition of Deutsche Welle:

Argentine authorities on Friday searched the Buenos Aires offices of German technology giant Siemens, in an investigation of the payment of bribes during the 1989-99 government of former Argentine president Carlos Menem.

German media reported in recent days, based on court documents, that Menem allegedly received a direct payment from Siemens of $16 million (10.9 million euros). The firm reportedly expected to pay $100 million in bribes to Argentine officials including Menem and the then ministers of finance and interior.

Siemens' Argentine headquarters, located near the historic Plaza de Mayo in central Buenos Aires, were searched in an effort to secure evidence on an order from Judge Ariel Lijo.

Former Siemens officials claimed -- in the context of a broader investigation against the German multinational firm -- that the company paid bribes in Argentina. German courts forwarded the information to authorities in Buenos Aires.

Siemens in the 1990s was seeking a $1.26-billion contract to digitalize Argentine identity documents and other services, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. The contract was signed under Menem in 1998 but cancelled in 2001 by his successor, President Fernando de la Rua.

Later, Siemens allegedly paid further bribes until 2004 -- under former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, husband of current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner -- in an effort to have the contract restored.

Sunday
Aug102008

Speaking Of International Cooperation . . .

We were moved -- very moved -- by the opening scenes from the Beijing Olympics. Part of the fun is seeing the fabulous changes in China since our first visit there 15 years ago. Has any country ever transformed itself so completely in such a short amount of time?

And watching the China - United States basketball game was a kick as well. The Chinese are b-ball fanatics, and it showed. They cheered every point scored by both teams, making the game a love fest in the stands and on the court. The lopsided result (101 - 70 in favor of the Redeem Team) didn't matter much. More important was all the goodwill in the bleachers and the fine sportsmanship on the floor. The Olympics are still something special.

Turning to business, Eurojustice is on the radar. Eurojustice? It's an initiative of top prosecutors from all the EU member countries. They're working together to exchange information about how crimes are investigated and prosecuted in their respective jurisdictions. More importantly, they're creating an infrastructure for sharing evidence of criminal behavior when it's spread across several countries.

Since the start of the initiative about five years ago, Eurojustice has consisted mainly of a series of annual conferences and the development of a neat public website. To help member countries understand each other better, they all answered 150 questions about how they investigate and prosecute crimes. The results are posted on the site. It's a great resource. And the transparency it represents is bound to encourage law enforcement agencies from member countries to work together.

In fact, in what may be Eurojustice's first publicly acknowledged cooperative effort, Greek, German and Swiss authorities are locking arms on the Siemens case. According to recent stories in the Greek press (here, for example), all three countries want to know "where the money from the German company’s slush fund went."

The Munich prosecutor's office, the stories say, invited Greek prosecutors to question former Siemens officials in Germany about allegations that the company paid bribes to politicians in Athens to secure contracts. Greek authorities are also saying they'll have access to Swiss records. They say they'll "be able to skirt the laborious procedures demanded (especially by the Swiss authorities) in order to get information regarding bank accounts."

“This is a very important and unprecedented instance in the annals of Greek justice,” a judicial source said.

Cheers from the bleachers for Eurojustice. It's showing why compliance by companies doing business in Europe is more important than ever.

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