Bribery Case Against Israeli Dropped, Ending Siemens Investigation

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Attorney Shlomo Nass, who in March 2018 was acquitted in the bribery investigation involving Germany's Siemens.
Attorney Shlomo Nass, who in March 2018 was acquitted in the bribery investigation involving Germany's Siemens.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The criminal case against Shlomo Nass, one of Israel’s top bankruptcy attorneys, has been closed, marking the end of the long-running probe into bribes paid by Germany’s Siemens to top executives at Israel Electric Corporation.

Siemens was found to have paid millions in bribes to win contracts from the state-owned utility, and a handful of IEC managers were convicted in the case. But the case against Nass continued until it was terminated this week for what the state prosecutor said was a lack of evidence.

Suspicions against Nass were first stirred when investigators for the Israel Securities Authority found there was $500,000 in a Swiss bank account that belonged to him. Moreover, the money had been transferred into the account from an account the German company had used to pay others bribes in the affair.

The Swiss account was held in the name of a Stephen Nass. Shlomo Nass denied the account was his, forcing ISA investigators to conduct a worldwide search for the account holder. It turned out the account holder was indeed Shlomo Nass, at which point the lawyer ceased to cooperate with the probe.

Nass sat on the IEC’s board in the 1990s and even briefly served as its chairman, but at the time Siemens was paying bribes, between 2002 and 2005, he had no role at the utility. However, investigators were concerned that Nass’ sister, attorney Rachel Don Yehiya, was an IEC director at the time. A case against her was also closed.

In Nass’ case, prosecutors came up against a legal obstacle in bribery cases, namely that the accused has to be a public-sector employee and that it can be shown he or she did something in return for the suspected payment. Prosecutors said they could not assemble enough evidence to make the case in court because Nass had left the IEC’s board a decade before the bribery occurred.

In response, Nass issued a statement. “Four years of grief and torment have ended in the closing of a case that had no reason to begin at all,” he said. “For many years I have been barred from responding to headlines that weren’t true. The authorities are allowed to apologize, and I was disappointed that they did not find a way to do so even today.”

Siemens agreed years ago to pay Israel 160 million shekels ($43 million at the time) to settle the case and agreed to appoint an outsider to scrutinize the company’s business in Israel in the future. In addition, five former IEC managers were convicted a year ago in a plea bargain that saw them sentenced to between 24 and 45 months in prison, along with fines and a requirement to hand over assets worth tens of millions of shekels.

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