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Swiss seize CHF60 million corporate bribes

The Swiss financial system was used to channel corporate bribes Keystone

The Swiss authorities have issued fines and seized CHF60 million ($65 million) of dirty money relating to the Siemens “slush fund” scandal – one of the largest corporate corruption cases in recent times.

By doing so, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office signaled the conclusion of an eight year investigation into executives and shell companies that used the Swiss financial system to channel massive bribes used to win lucrative contracts for the German industrial giant.

The Swiss investigation focused on corrupt payments made to secure business for Siemens in the Greek telecommunications market. Swiss investigators cooperated with their counterparts in Germany, the United States and Liechtenstein during the course of the probe.

Two former Siemens executives were investigated, one of whom was ordered to pay an undisclosed fine, while a Swiss fiduciary (lawyer who manages funds on behalf of third parties) was hit with a suspended fine of CHF212,400 for aggravated money laundering offences.

One company in the process of winding up was also ordered to hand over any proceeds left over from its liquidation.

“Positive message”

In total, CHF60 million of bribe money from slush funds, that had been frozen, were seized by the Attorney General. A further sum of €630,000 (CHF776,000) was handed over by guilty parties to Transparency International Switzerland, the Geneva foundation La Maison de Tara and to the SOS Children’s Village in Munich.

“This a positive decision that is sending out the right message,” Jean-Pierre Méan, President of Transparency International Switzerland, told “There is a political will to clean up the Swiss financial sector. Progress has certainly been made, but the job has not yet been completed.”

The Siemens group itself was not investigated by the Swiss authorities, but the company had already been hit with a $1.6 billion fine by US and German regulators, while former executives faced criminal trials. Some €1.3 billion in bribe money was syphoned off in the 1990s and 2000s.

In a separate case, also announced on Tuesday, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor ordered a Siemens Swedish subsidiary, Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, to surrender $10.6 million in illegally obtained profits after channeling bribe money through Swiss accounts to win orders from Russia’s Yamal gas pipeline project.

The company also paid CHF125,000 to International Committee of the Red Cross as part of the settlement. The unlawful transactions took place between 2004 and 2006.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR