As a bribery probe unfolds at the German engineering firm Siemens, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) is threatening to withdraw its membership, a top TI official told reporters.
Siemens' CEO Kleinfeld is under pressure from all sides these day
The giant German group will face consequences later this month if it fails to respond to TI's request for information, TI Germany's deputy Peter von Blomberg told the business daily Handelsblatt on Thursday.
"Our industrial partners should be beacons in the fight against corruption. The worst that could happen to us would be if one of our members were actively involved in corruption," he said.
A Siemens spokesman said that the group was taking TI's misgivings very seriously and would cooperate fully. He added that Siemens had filed a suit against the former chief of its telecoms activities in Greece, demanding repayment of missing company money.
The manager was removed from his post in April. Prosecutors are investigating the existence of overseas slush funds containing about 200 million euros ($266 million), which Siemens managers have allegedly used to pay bribes to obtain big contracts.
Seven arrested so far
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Press reports have claimed that some of the bribes may have gone to representatives of the Greek interior and defense industries in the run-up to the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
The scandal might also involve the payment of massive bribes to representatives in the regime of the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
So far, seven former Siemens executives have been arrested. Five are still being held for questioning.
Von Blomberg complained that although TI was in constant contact with Siemens, the organization had only learned about the scandal from newspaper reports.
TI has 37 corporate partners in Germany
Transparency International was set up in 1993 by former World Bank chief Peter Eigen. It has 37 corporate members in Germany, including Allianz, Bosch, BASF and SAP.
In many countries, especially in the US, TI membership effectively provides entry to the market. If membership were withdrawn from Siemens, the firm might find it more difficult to secure contacts.