Siemens ex-Chairman Pierer refuses to testify

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Ex-Siemens SIEGn.DE Chairman Heinrich von Pierer will not testify in a corruption trial taking place in Munich for fear of incriminating himself, the law firm representing him confirmed on Thursday.

Heinrich Von Pierer, Chairman of Siemens AG from Germany talks on the second day of the Jeddah Economic Forum February 12, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Pierer, who resigned last year as investigations into suspected bribery at Europe’s biggest engineering group snowballed, had been expected to take the stand on June 20 in the trial of an ex-Siemens manager.

A spokeswoman for his lawyer Winfried Seibert said Pierer would invoke his right not to take the stand on the grounds that he could incriminate himself in regard to investigations into his conduct by Munich prosecutors.

Focus magazine had reported that Pierer would not testify.

The prosecutors are trying to establish whether Pierer neglected his custodial duties while he was Siemens chairman and previously chief executive for 12 years, during which time most of the alleged offences are thought to have happened.

Siemens is also being investigated by U.S. authorities -- which could ban the company from bidding in U.S. public tenders -- over suspected systematic bribery to win telecoms, power and other contracts over a period of years.

Suspicious payments identified by Siemens already total 1.3 billion euros ($2 billion).

The Munich trial of Reinhard Siekaczek, a key informer and ex-manager at Siemens’ telecoms division who has already pointed the finger at several of his former bosses, began in late May.

Separately, Pierer told German weekly Zeit that he should have taken more responsibility for the events that happened during his time as CEO.

“Probably I should have said more clearly that I take political responsibility for the things that happened during my time in office,” he said.

Pierer, formerly one of Germany’s most respected industrialists and an adviser to the country’s chancellors, has said repeatedly he bore no responsibility and knew nothing of the suspected abuses.

In his resignation statement last year, he said: “A personal responsibility regarding the current investigations was not the basis for my decision.”

Reporting by Jens Hack; Editing by David Cowell