Siemens: Technology Plus Bribes Equals Profits

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[International: Fostering Africa Corruption]

Whenever African leaders are excoriated that their administrations are through and through corrupt, and that this is the root cause of abject poverty in many African countries, they often reply and quip that any corrupt dealing, practice and operation always involves a briber and a bribed.

Siemens, an international German high technology conglomerate, is currently facing charges of contract corruption in the U.S. and in African countries, including Nigeria, for having cultivated a culture of corruption. The conglomerate drew up a special formula to chalk up contracts abroad, in order to maximize its earnings and profits. The formula reads as follows: “High Technology plus Bribery and Corruption equals High Earnings and Profits Possible.”


U.S. investigators found out recently that corruption has hitherto been part and parcel of the corporate culture of Siemens. It is now known that Siemens offered kickbacks to government officials in Nigeria, in Libya and in Russia so as to garner contracts

Dr. Siegfried Russwurm, the corporation’s Executive Vice President in charge of Africa fessed up last February in Abuja, Nigeria, when he besought new Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, craving his forgiveness and pledging that Siemens intends to usher out the corruption element in the firm’s quest for business success. “We had a problem in our leadership culture; we had had a problem in individual conduct,” he said. “We cannot claim today that we are leaders in ethical behavior but we want to be a benchmark not only in technical competence, but also in doing business. That is our way forward.”

Whenever a German executive is caught red-handed and is being sued for malpractices or corruption, he often explains that he engaged in such practices for the sake and for the benefit of his company. In fact, there was a rule in Germany that fostered corruption and encouraged German firms to offer kickbacks abroad to secure contracts. The funds spent in kickbacks were even tax-deductible in Germany. This may seem to be a factoid, surreal or surrealistic, but it’s sober truth.

It’s as though parents would tell to their kids: “Listen carefully, kids, you may not cheat inside this house, we don’t allow you to rob us, but we advise you to cheat outside if you want to get rich. We are even ready to protect you, we are prepared to refund you in case you spend money by cheating without this house.”

So it was only prohibited for German firms to bribe within the German borders; as a matter of fact, it was actionable. That is why Dr. Russwurm added, referring to the meeting with president Yar‘Adua: “But in the meeting, we have concentrated more on all the actions taken to ensure that this conduct does not occur again in the future because there is no different standards, we only want to go for business on the highest possible ethical standards wherever in the world.”

It should be noted that the German economy heavily depends on foreign markets; that is the reason why Germany belongs in the top exporting countries worldwide.

This unethical rule was officially scrapped when Gerhard Schröder ( SPD – Social-Democratic Party of Germany) and Joschka Fischer (The Greens) took over power in 1998. Granted that the rule became null and void when former German chancellor Schröder was in power; but has the unethical practice also been jettisoned by German businesses operating globally?

Elsewhere, in France and in Switzerland, justice departments are looking into the dealings of ALSTOM, a French engineering corporation, which allegedly acquired infrastructure contracts through corruption in South America and in Asia.

Many years back, a U.S. official told one journalist of the Canadian French-language news network “RDI” that ECHELON, the U.S. global electronic surveillance program, was set up to check corruption springing from its main center, Continental Western Europe, and pervading the globe.

The SIEMENS and ALSTOM cases show how many multinational firms hypocritically advance and spread the very corruption that some political leaders castigate with regard to Africa.

In banking on corruption, these corporations pervert sound and fair competition within the global business community, and harm other companies that are then compelled to pink-slipped their workers because they cannot make profits in order to pay the wages and salaries of their employees.


Mathias Victorien Ntep writes for “Black Star News” from Frankfurt, Germany. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Frankfurt/Main. He holds a Postgraduate and Higher Degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of Mainz, Germany, a Master’s degree of Arts in German studies, Philosophy and Romance studies from the University of Frankfurt, a Bachelor’s degree of Arts in German studies, Linguistics, and General and Comparative Literature from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon.






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