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Willi Betz CEO set for five years in prison

  • 25 February 2008
  • By Dylan Gray

Thomas Betz, CEO of German haulage giant Willi Betz , is set to be handed a five-year prison sentence after a regional court initiated a settlement into the company's ongoing legal dispute. A company statement says it expects Thomas Betz to be fined in addition to receiving a sentence, which will be repealed as he has already spent two-and-a-half years on remand. The company itself is set to pay compensation for social insurance, taxes and fines (which it continues to dispute) of €35m (£26.4m).

A Betz spokesman says: "We are relieved that those concerned finally have an end to the procedure in sight. The alternative would have been a process through the authorities lasting several years." Thomas Betz, his father Willi and three of their colleagues entered the spotlight in October 2006 with no less that 560 charges having been issued against them.

Some concerned bribes totalling millions of euros alleged to have been paid to officials from various Eastern European countries in order to acquire licences for branch offices in their countries. In particular, prosecutors accused Thomas Betz of paying €4.5m for permits in Georgia and Azerbaijan between 1998 and 2003, which resulted in a massive €183m boost to its gross profit.

The Betz representative adds: "Since the investigation came to light in 2003, we have been working intensively on throwing light on the accusations, as we were sure we had always acted within the laws and regulations. We therefore regret all the more that the procedure has not ended with the acquittals we were striving for." This year, the company is aiming to generate a turnover of €1bn (£753.6m).

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