Deutsche Telekom CEO rejects bribery allegations

Despite having his house searched and documents confiscated, Deutsch Telekom's CEO René Obermann has denied any involvement in a suspected bribery case in the company's eastern European operations.

However, German newspapers are claiming that the state prosecutor in Bonn has launched legal proceedings against Obermann alleging that bribery took place at DT's subsidiaries in Hungary, Macedonia and Montenegro.

German prosecutors are investigating eight people including Obermann at the request of U.S. authorities who are looking into suspected bribery in Macedonia and Montenegro.

DT's leading lawyer, Manfred Balz, said that the alleged bribery had taken place in 2005, when the auditor of Magyar Telekom refused to sign off the financial accounts of the company following revelations that millions of euros in consulting fees had been paid without supporting paperwork.

A subsequent internal DT investigation uncovered further cases with a total value of €24 million. Magyar Telekom claims that the money was used by the international law firm White & Case to obtain concessions from the Macedonian government.

Obermann, who was CEO of T-Mobile International at the time, has been accused of making an illegal deal with the chairman of Macedonia's MakTel with regard to dividend payments to ensure that the planned opening of the Macedonian telecom market would be delayed for other operators.

Balz has acknowledged the two CEOs met. "There was personal contact with the MakTel chief, but this was simply a courtesy call. The man happened to be in Bonn... Obermann had no influence at all on MakTel's business policies."

Some of the suspects are said to be DT employees, although German prosecutors also raided the homes of people and offices of other companies last month as part of the investigation.

The interest in possible bribery came after a request for legal assistance from the U.S. SEC. DT maintains that it has fully co-operated with the U.S. investigation, which has been underway for four years, and that Obermann had assisted as a witness in 2009. "No allegations have been made against the CEO personally at any stage of the US investigation," said a DT spokesman.

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