Siemens wins the $2 billion corporate bribery prize

Microsoft has nothing on Siemens when it comes to buddying up to Nigerian officials.

And you thought Microsoft's alleged misconduct in Nigeria was bad. It's apparently nothing compared. to Siemens' reported global bribery, including in Nigeria. Between 2000 and 2006 Siemens engaged in nearly $2 billion in "suspicious transactions":

Scandal-scarred Siemens AG paid millions of euros in bribes to cabinet ministers and dozens of other officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya as it sought to win lucrative contracts for telecommunications equipment, according to a court ruling that depicts a pattern of bribery by one manager....

The Oct. 4 ruling by a Munich court names four former Nigerian telecommunications ministers as well as other officials in Nigeria, Libya and Russia as recipients of 77 bribes totaling about ?12 million, or about $17.5 million. Siemens accepted responsibility for the misconduct and agreed to pay a ?201 million fine decreed by the court, but it has declined to identify those named as bribe givers and takers in the ruling's text, which wasn't disclosed....

When they carried out a dramatic raid on Siemens headquarters a year ago, German police focused on just ?20 million in alleged fraud. The investigation quickly mushroomed into one of the continent's biggest bribery cases, triggering high-level arrests...[and the] resignations of the chairman and chief executive earlier this year.

Siemens is still being investigated on several continents. The company said last week it has identified ?1.3 billion in suspicious transactions world-wide between 2000 and 2006.

Wow. This takes German "engineering" to an entirely new level. It's breathtaking to contemplate the scope of the criminal activity at such a respected company.

It also begs the question, "If Siemens feels compelled to pay massive bribes, what are its competitors doing? I doubt Siemens started bribing people out of the sheer thrill of doing so.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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