December 22, 2017 / 10:18 PM / 3 months ago

REFILE-German pleads not guilty to U.S. charges in Siemens' Argentine bribe case

(Corrects time element in first paragraph to say Friday, not Thursday)

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK, Dec 22 (Reuters) - A former Siemens AG employee pleaded not guilty on Friday to U.S. charges he took part in a $100 million scheme to bribe Argentine officials to win a contract to produce national identity cards, according to prosecutors.

Eberhard Reichert, a 78-year-old German national, was released on a $500,000 bond following a hearing before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan, the U.S. Justice Department said. Cote scheduled a trial for July 16.

Reichert was arrested in Croatia in September, nearly six years after the U.S. first charged him, and agreed to be extradited to New York, said James Margolin, a spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim.

Reichert’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. Siemens also could not be reached.

Reichert was one of eight Siemens employees indicted on U.S. corruption charges in 2011. According to the indictment, Reichert worked for Siemens from about 1964 to 2001, and was a manager within the company’s Siemens Business Services subsidiary.

One other defendant, Andres Truppel, has appeared in U.S. court. Truppel, a former chief financial officer of Siemens Argentina, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in September 2015.

Truppel admitted that he participated in a scheme to secure a $1 billion contract with the Argentine government to produce national identity cards by paying tens of millions of dollars.

Under a plea deal, Truppel, a citizen of both Germany and Argentina, agreed to cooperate with authorities.

Siemens in 2008 agreed to pay over $1.3 billion to resolve wide-ranging bribery investigations in the United States and Germany involving the German engineering group.

As part of that deal, Siemens and its subsidiary in Argentina pleaded guilty in the United States to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which bars companies from bribing foreign officials, and paid $449 million in fines.

That plea related to the same $1 billion Argentine contract that became the subject of the indictment against the eight Siemens executives.

Siemens won the contract in 1998. Throughout the project, the Siemens executives committed to paying nearly $100 million in bribes to members of the Argentine government and opposition party as well as candidates for office, prosecutors said.

Those executives included Uriel Sharef, who had been a member of Siemens’ managing board and became the first ex-board member of a Fortune Global 50 company to be indicted under the FCPA. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York)

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