The United States’ securities regulator is offering its assistance to German prosecutors probing claimed payment of bribes by Ford, the second largest US automaker, to speed the passing of containers through Russian customs.
The report comes from an insider source at the US carmaker, with Ford and Schenker, the freight business of state-owned German rail company Deutsche Bahn probed in Germany since 2013 as they are suspected to have bribed and made other violations in relation to their business in the Russian port of St. Petersburg. The area acts as the country’s gateway to Europe and at least 2,000 companies use it to perform shipments – and is well known among its customers for the massive delays. Confirming a recent report originating in Tuesday’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, a person from within the automaker has told Reuters the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has now banded with investigations by prosecutors in Cologne, where Ford’s European headquarter is located.
Two Ford staffers, eight current and former workers at Schenker and one employee from a Russian contractor are being probed, according to the Cologne prosecutor’s office. The US company announced last year it was firing 700 workers at its factory in the vicinity of St. Petersburg as it coped with Russia’s slumping economy, weak currency and plunging auto sales. The facility outputs the Focus compact and Mondeo midsize models. Berlin-based Deutsche Bahn added it has already fired the members of the staff accused of law violations and it was conducting its own internal investigation to assess if other employees were at fault.