SWITZERLAND - Siemens says Swiss pension fund manager Roland Rümmeli was fired because he breached the industrial group's business conduct guidelines.

"In the first interim report filed by two external lawyers there is various evidence that Roland Rümmeli breached our business conduct guidelines. That is sufficient ground for instant dismissal," Siemens AG spokesman Benno Estermann told IPE. No details of the allegations were revealed.

Estermann said that once the final report and the findings by the state prosecutor into the case were available the Siemens AG would decide on whether or not to take legal action against Rümmeli.

Meanwhile, information obtained by the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger suggests that the CHF500,000 (€313,700) received by Rümmeli in kickback payments were paid by the Auriga hedge fund.

Rümmeli, the former portfolio manager of the company's CHF1.6bn pension fund was arrested about a month ago over allegations he received kickback payments. Evidence against Rümmeli had been gathered in the investigations into the Swissfirst scandal. Swissfirst denied paying kickbacks.

Rümmeli gave given himself away when he liquidated all his accounts he had with one bank at the same time, the Tagesanzeiger reports.

He was set released a few days ago as judges ruled there was no more danger of collusion.
Evidence gathered by the Swiss newspaper suggests that Swissfirst was not the source for the money. It names Auriga International Investors Ltd. a hedge fund company registered on the British Virgin Islands with offices in the US, UK and Switzerland. Auriga was not contactable.

Unnamed sources told the newspaper that kickbacks were usually handed over in the form of cheques over lunch.

"We were convinced that the money was going into the pension fund," an asset manager who had served as intermediary between the hedge fund and the pension fund is quoted as saying. Kickbacks themselves are not illegal but they are intended to go to the investing institution not the intermediary or the portfolio manager.

Siemens spokesman Estermann did not want to comment on a possible involvement of the Auriga hedge fund or whether or not the pension fund had invested in funds of this company. "We are investing in so-called non-traditional asset classes but this makes up under 3% of our total portfolio," he told IPE.

Currently the portfolio of the pension fund is managed in co-operation with partner banks, Estermann explained.