A former midlevel employee of German industrial giant Siemens pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to pay tens of millions of dollars to Argentine officials to win a $1 billion contract to create national ID cards.
Eberhard Reichart, 78, who worked for Siemens from 1964 to 2001, appeared in federal court in New York to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the anti-bribery Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire fraud.
Reichart was arraigned last December in a three-count indictment filed in December 2011 charging him and seven other Siemens executives and agents with participating in the decadelong scheme, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The men were accused of conspiring to pay more than $100 million in bribes to high-level Argentine officials to win the contract in 1998.
As part of his guilty plea, Reichart admitted in court that he engaged in the bribery conspiracy and that he and his co-conspirators used shell companies to conceal the illicit payments to Argentine officials.
The Argentine government terminated the contract in 2001, but the Siemens executives "sought to recover the profits they would have reaped" through an illicitly obtained contract, said Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in 2011.
"Far too often, companies pay bribes as part of their business plan, upsetting what should be a level playing field and harming companies that play by the rules," acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said Thursday.
In 2008, Siemens pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the Argentine bribery scheme, agreeing to pay the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission $800 million in criminal and civil penalties.
The company paid the German government another $800 million to settle similar charges brought by the Munich Public Prosecutor's Office.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars U.S. companies and foreign firms with a presence in the U.S. from paying bribes to foreign officials.
Last year, 11 companies paid just over $1.92 billion to resolve charges brought under the anti-bribery law, according to data compiled by the FCPA Blog.