Finger points at parties

A former Siemens AG manager on trial over alleged corruption and bribery testified in Germany yesterday that its Greek unit bribed officials from Greece’s two main political groups to win state contracts. Reinhard Siekaczek, a former manager at the ICN fixed-line telephone network division, is the first to go on trial over the company’s corruption scandal that came to light last year. He told a court in Munich that its subsidiary, Siemens Hellas, paid money every year from slush funds to shape the political landscape in Greece. «Kickbacks were a common secret at Siemens,» he said. «It was a practice known to me and to others that we paid commissions to win contracts. Many supervisors and staff members from the internal auditing department knew about this practice.» Siekaczek said that an 850-million-euro contract between Siemens and OTE in 1997 involved «large» payments. According to sources, PASOK’s Anastassios Mantelis, who was serving as the country’s transport minister at the time, signed the deal in 1997. The German press reported yesterday, citing Siemens documents, that it is possible the 850-million-euro deal signed by OTE was agreed to at the expense of the Greek company. Siekaczek, 57, is charged with 58 counts of breach of trust. Prosecutors allege that he set up a complex network of shell corporations that he used to siphon off company money over several years. The money allegedly was used as bribes to help secure contracts abroad by paying off would-be suppliers, government officials and potential customers. Apart from Greece and Germany, authorities have launched investigations into suspected bribes to win contracts in the USA, Switzerland and Italy. The trial in Munich is expected to last through July.