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Swissfirst affair: Siemens manager repays cash

SWITZERLAND - Roland Rümmeli, the Siemens Swiss pension investment head embroiled in the Swissfirst insider trading affair, has repaid CHF400,000 (€251,000) to his former company.

"This doesn't mean this thing is over," said Siemens spokesman Benno Estermann. He noted that if it emerged that the amount of kickbacks to Rümmeli exceeded CHF400,000, Siemens would demand more from its former employee.

Rümmeli was arrested on September 8 by Zurich authorities in the wake of the scandal, where seven pension funds, including that of Siemens, were found to have made what appeared to be dubious equity trades with a bank called Swissfirst.

Authorities are still investigating the schemes, but so far no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged.

During Rümmeli's month-long detention, however, authorities discovered that he had received CHF500,000 in kickback payments, though not from Swissfirst.

Citing Swiss investigators, the Tagesanzeiger newspaper said the payments came from the hedge fund Auriga and that they were made in exchange for Rümmeli's investing in its fund.

According to the newspaper, Auriga is a hedge fund based in the British Virgin Island with offices in the US, UK and Switzerland. The fund was not contactable. Siemens' Swiss pension fund has CHF1.6bn in total assets.

Rümmeli was released on October 10 after Arno Thürig, Zurich's prosecutor, decided that there was no longer a danger that he could impede the Swissfirst investigation.

But Siemens, which had suspended Rümmeli upon hearing of his arrest, fired him the day after his release on the grounds of his breaching its conduct guidelines.

In a related development, Jürg Maurer, head of investments at the pension fund for Swiss industrial firm Rieter, has denied that he was giving up a seat on Rieter's supervisory board.

At the weekend, Swiss boulevard newspaper Blick claimed that despite the fact that Rieter has cleared him of wrongdoing in the Swissfirst affair, Maurer must give up his board seat.

"The speculation by Blick is completely groundless. Press freedom does not give people the right to do bad journalism and to spread untruths," Maurer said in an angry reply to the Blick report.

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