MUNICH, Germany -- The first charges are expected within weeks in connection with bribery and corruption investigations in the German auto industry.
Frankfurt prosecutors are investigating allegations that purchasing managers at Volkswagen, Audi and Seat were bribed by executives from Faurecia and three other unidentified parts makers in exchange for contracts.
Separately, in Munich 30 people are being questioned and as many as nine have been taken into custody during a 15-month investigation into claims that Faurecia, Lear Corp., Intier Automotive Inc., Draexlmaier Group, Grammer AG and M&H GmbH & Co. KG bribed BMW purchasing executives.
Authorities have uncovered evidence of foreign bank accounts, fake invoices, secret storage locations and bribes worth nearly 1 million euros, or $1.3 million at current exchange rates.
Faurecia accepted the resignation of CEO Pierre Levi on Aug. 2. Prosecutors say Levi admitted that as early as 2001 he was aware of bribes given to employees of the VW brand, Audi and BMW.
Levi's successor is expected to be named next month, a Faurecia spokeswoman said. Until then, Jean-Claude Hanus, director for legal affairs for Faurecia majority owner PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, will act as chairman. Frank Imbert, Faurecia's CFO, will be managing director.
Faurecia bought the auto parts business of Germany's Sommer Allibert in 2001 -- and with it the supply contracts with VW and BMW that are under investigation in Germany, Frankfurt prosecutors say.
"Levi has agreed to tell us everything he knows," Doris Moeller-Scheu, a spokeswoman for the Frankfurt prosecutor's office, told Automotive News Europe. "There is no arrest warrant. We expect he will turn himself in." If convicted, Levi faces fines or spending as many as five years in jail, she said.
VW acknowledges that two managers and a former VW employee are being investigated in Frankfurt. Frankfurt officials, who have been investigating the case for a year, said the three suspects received a minimum of about $900,000 in bribes from suppliers.
Faurecia, of Nanterre, France, ranks No. 9 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with original-equipment automotive parts sales of $14.00 billion in 2005.
Sylviane de Saint-Seine and Klaus-Dieter Floerecke contributed to this report
You may e-mail Jason Stein at [email protected]
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