An extensive bribery scandal at Siemens AG that has shocked corporate Germany over the last four years has finally come to trial. Although Thomas Ganswindt is not the first manager to face charges in relation to this matter, he is the most senior yet.
Mr Ganswindt, who is a former member of the executive board, and who was on track to become chief executive, stands accused of tax evasion and neglecting his supervisory duty. Mr Ganswindt denies any wrongdoing, stating that he trusted the team that he led, and that “[t]here have always been suspicions, but during my time at Siemens, I didn’t learn about one real and concrete case of bribery.” His team is at the centre of the scandal that concerned the payment of bribes to secure contracts on a global scale.
Mr Ganswindt also stands accused of tax evasion, as the bribes were accounted for as consultancy costs, which were subsequently tax-deductible. The maximum possible custodial sentence for tax evasion is five years. Siemens are also claiming damages of €5 million against Mr Ganswindt for failing to prevent corruption from taking place.
The prosecutors are reported as saying that they believe that they have uncovered funds that have been used to pay in the region of €1.3 billion of bribes in recent years. This has led to the departure of an entire senior management team and a cost to Siemens of €2 billion in fines and advisory fees.
Siemens have taken action against other members of the executive board. Last year Heinrich von Pierer, former chief executive and chairman, settled out of court for €5 million.