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Siemens admits corruption charges

BUENOS AIRES, December 18 – German industrial giant Siemens, which agreed this week to a 1.4-billion-dollar fine for corruption schemes in the United States and Germany, admitted Wednesday it paid bribes to win an Argentinian contract, official media reported.

Siemens\’ local chief Enrique Antonio Genzone wrote Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido explaining that the bribes involved a contract to make Argentine national identity cards signed by former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999) and rescinded by his successor Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), the Telam news agency said.

Genzone, according to a copy of the letter distributed by Telam, said his company had reached an agreement with the US Justice Department to "pay a fine totaling 800 million dollars" in the sprawling corruption scandal.

US authorities said Siemens had used slush funds, off-book accounting and delivered suitcases full of cash to bribe officials to secure contracts in Argentina, Bangladesh, Iraq and Venezuela.

Argentinian media said the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Siemens with paying more than 40 million dollars to top Argentine officials from 1998 to 2004 to secure a billion-dollar ID card contract.

At least 2.6 million dollars were directly transferred from business advisors to the Argentine president (Menem), his minister of the interior and immigration chief to secure the contract, La Nacion newspaper said.

The SEC also charged Siemens with paying six million dollars to "officials of the new administration" that took over from Menem, meaning De la Rua\’s government, it added.

Genzone, in his letter to De Vido, said Siemens had no issues of corruption with the government of Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) or that of his successor and wife Cristina Kirchner, who took office a year ago.

Siemens\’ ID contracts have been under investigation by a federal judge since 2004. Menem and his former interior minister Carlos Corach and immigration director Hugo Franco are bribe suspects in the probe.

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Menem is currently on trial for allegedly orchestrating the smuggling of arms to Croatia and Ecuador in the 1990s.

Siemens agreed to pay nearly one billion euros (1.4 billion dollars) to US and German authorities on Monday to settle a massive corruption scandal.

Under the German settlement, prosecutors said Siemens would pay 395 million euros, on top of a fine of 201 million euros last year that charged Siemens with running a bribe-and-kickback system to secure foreign contracts.

Under a separate US court settlement Monday, Siemens pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to pay 800 million dollars to avoid prosecution.

The 161-year-old conglomerate with activities from nuclear power stations to trains and light bulbs has acknowledged that up to 1.3 billion euros may have been used illegally to win foreign contracts.

Siemens, which employs some 400,000 people worldwide, found in an exhaustive internal investigation that the practice was widespread across its numerous divisions.

The scandal which erupted in late 2006 led to the resignation of a string of top managers.

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