Thursday, February 08, 2007
Siemens Needed €38 m. For Bribes in Saudi Arabia, Do You Think €3 m. is Enough in Macedonia?
Siemens is a worldwide multinational corporation employing 450,000 people, 21st on the Fortune Global 500 list with $91 billion of revenues and Delta Holding from Belgrade, employing some 14,000, also pretending to be a multinational firm, not on the Fortune 500 list, about $2 bln in revenues, can hardly compare with it. Or so it seems at a first glance.
But, when one looks better, it appears that these two companies have something interesting in common. Both are involved in very high profile bribe cases. In strongly alleged criminal activity.
Siemens makes and sells electrical and electronic products and systems from toasters to trains, from hearing aids to power stations. It works in 190 countries round the world. Delta Holding is mainly engaged in the foodstuffs like diary products, Serbian cheese, or meat, cereals, but it also sells consumer goods others produce or services of its own. It appears that Delta Holding is an ambition-lead firm and will expand in other countries. What better than begin with the neighboring ones (Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia) before it makes 180-200 like Siemens.
Back to Siemens - Delta Holding "bribes for expansion" similarity.
In November last year (75 days ago) a squad of of German policemen raided Siemens headquarters, arrested several suspects, took whatever they were told was interesting and ignited a big fireball of an international bribe scandal. The Munich public prosecutor's office chases Siemens for bribing foreign citizens do things that would benefit the German multinational firm.
To-day's Wall Street Journal runs a top of the first-page story under a title Key Siemens figure talks and specifies that a $50 million bribe to individuals in Saudi Arabia was confirmed by a witness (who is also a suspect) who flew in and gave himself up to the prosecutors willing to help the investigation and get leniency in exchange. That is just a fraction of the $545 million approximated as spent on bribes during the past seven years by Siemens top executives. $420 million were uncovered so far.
Now, after a self-promoting lawyer (Aleksandar Tortevski (formerly deputy leader with the League of Democracy political party presided by his university professor) blabbed that Nikola Gruevski the prime-minister of Macedonia refused to accept a €3 million bribe - the Pandora box opened and the first question was: who extended the bribe? Before long "Delta Holding" from Belgrade and its CEO Miroslav Mishkovic were implicated. The deputy CEO of "Delta-Holding" Milka Forcan, a very charming an efficient person, demanded the allegations were substantiated with names or squashed. The macho crowd in Skopje disregarded her appeal. Then the big boss sent a growling letter to the president of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski suggesting he intervened or a court case was in the looming. The president publicly distanced himself from any mediation. Thus, a Balkan impasse.
Or is it so?
Of course it is not.
The Serbian prosecutor has a formal statement by the Macedonian government that somebody in the name of "Delta-Holding" offered a bribe to the prime-minister of a sovereign country. If $5o million (€38 million) are needed for bribing officials in Saudi Arabia where dollar bills fly as used parking tickets, paltry €3 million for church-mouse poor Macedonia is a pile of money, more than adequate. So, the Serbian prosecutor could (following the practice of his German colleagues) give order for a raid on "Delta-Holding" in search of evidence. The fact that in this particular case the alleged bribe was not consummated - is totally besides the point. The admission (from the receiving end of the allegation) that there was an offer for a bribe indicates that there might have been other, consummated bribes by "Delta-Holding" in Macedonia or elsewhere. That would, further on, imply that moneys evaded the tax laws in Serbia, hurt the treasury, although I do not believe that the German Bundesrepublic publicly drags Siemens (Nr.1 electronics firm on the planet) in the filth of corruption only for possible $80 million of uncollected tax. I think that the principle is in question.
Thus, I can understand that Serbia does not deliver Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to this butcher of a lawyer Carla del Ponte because its constitution for the past 75 years effectively forbid any extradition of the citizens of the country under any pretext - but I cannot understand why the prosecutor of Serbia does not budge in this case? If Mr. Mishkovic is proven right that "Delta-Holding" does not resort to corruption, so much the better. The Serbian side can, at the same time, press the Macedonian legal system clarify what is what. The two prosecutors and police could cooperate. Such an event appears incomprehensible at the moment but that is exactly my point.
The Balkans needs the rule of law. The Balkans crave for honest cooperation. The Balkans plead for normality. But the Balkans also need to get rid of innuendoes and of smear, of hush-hush attacks on any public servant or individual. It is not true that "all of them are thieves".
Unfortunately, as we have seen recently, the Balkans do not forget the adage that the early singing rooster is the first to end up in the pot. Setting in motion the clogs of the justice grinder may help things to move to the better.