‘It’s improper to interfere in SL’s internal affairs’ – German Interest Group

Envoy’s public comments on Kerawalapitiya LNG tender



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An interest group ‘Germans in Sri Lanka’, says that German Ambassador Jorn Rohde’s public comments over Sri Lanka’s failure to award the Kerawalapitiya LNG power plant bid to the local company ‘Lakdhanavi’ (for which the German giant Siemens AG is the technology provider) cannot be endorsed as it’s improper for an envoy to interfere in a matter considered purely an internal affair of a country.


"As Germans living in Sri Lanka, as welcomed guests and investors, we cannot endorse the German Ambassador questioning the "transparency" and "openness" of the tender procedure, which is a matter for the elected democratic government to deal with", spokesman for the interest group, Social Scientist, Dr. Dietmar Doering, said in a statement.


Furthermore, public comments of this nature stand in gross violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), he asserted.


‘Germans in Sri Lanka’ consist of German nationals living in Sri Lanka as business people, pensioners, philanthropists and senior citizens. They have made the country their second home, apart from university students from Germany and Switzerland promoting sports exchange programs between Sri Lanka and Germany.


The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), the key legal instrument on diplomatic relations between states, provides in Article 41 that persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities "have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving states", Dr. Doering noted in the statement.


A reference to this norm and to its equivalent in customary law has been made by the International Court of Justice, it pointed out.


A state, whose agents commit interference, finds itself in violation of a legal obligation. The International Law Commission – the body which developed the text on which today’s VCDR is based – clearly mentions that the participation in political campaigns (such as the one the German envoy engaged in during the constitutional crisis last year) is a form of ‘diplomatic interference’, the statement further said.


The German envoy is in favor of the German energy giant Siemens, through the local partner ‘Lakdhanavi’, as the company, which should have been awarded the contract, instead of the Chinese party, it added.


It is no secret that Siemens, one of the world’s largest electrical engineering companies, has been under a cloud with a reported corruption scandal that shocked the world. It was described as the ‘biggest corruption case of the time’, the statement noted.


A few years later, Linda Thomsen, Director at the Security Exchange Commission described the alleged pattern of bribery in the company as "unprecedented in scale and geographic reach". The corruption involved more than $1.4 billion in bribes to government officials in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.


Prior to the alleged corruption scandal, the reputation of Siemens was extremely good. It was renowned for its technological products and reliable services in telecommunications, power, transportation and medical equipment. It was common to see articles featuring its activities in remote areas, developing new high quality products and winning competitive bids, the statement said.


The world was taken by surprise when the police raided the company’s headquarters in Munich as well as other subsidiaries on November 15, 2006. The company’s first reaction was to claim innocence and blame events on a small "criminal gang", the statement recalled.


The statement further noted: "It was further alleged that over many decades, bribes became the accepted business norm at Siemens. They were channelled through hidden bank accounts, obscure intermediaries and pseudo "consultants". When calculating the cost of a project, Siemens employees used "nützliche aufwendungen", a common tax term literally translated as "useful expenditures" or internally understood as "bribes."


"Greece’s former Transport Minister was found guilty of money laundering involving contracts between Siemens’ Greek unit and then state-controlled telecoms firm OTE, according to media reports.


"Tassos Mantelis, 72, who served as the transport minister from 1996-2000, concealed 450,000 deutsche mark (about US$ 270,000) he received from Siemens via a third party for approving a contract with OTE, according to a court in Athens.


"Mantelis was handed an eight year suspended sentence and fined €50,000 (US$ 58,670), it was widely reported.


"The director of Siemens in Greece at the time, Ilias Georgiou, also received a 12-year suspended sentence for money laundering and was ordered not to leave the country.


"Mantalis admitted to an investigating parliamentary committee in 2010 that he had accepted money from Siemens while in office, but that it had been a "campaign donation."


"A 2006 scandal revealed that Siemens had kept black coffers in the amount of €1.3 billion (US$ 1.5 billion). The hidden funds were used to pay bribes to win several large tenders around the world, including one linked to the organization of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.


"In 2008, Siemens ended one of the biggest corruption probes in history when it agreed to pay about €1 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) in fines and penalties.


"Mantelis’s trial is Greece’s latest crackdown on corruption involving Siemens. Another lawsuit against former Greek Siemens executives accused of bribery and money laundering has been underway since 2015.


"A Greek parliamentary report estimated in 2011 that the Siemens scandal has cost the government at least €2 billion (US$ 2.3 billion)".


With all these public records at hand, it is even more surprising to see a German Head of Mission over enthusiastically promoting Siemens in Sri Lanka, the statement added.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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