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Sun, Nov 26, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Prosecutors make settlement offer in Mannesmann case

AP , DUESSELDORF, GERMANY

Prosecutors said on Friday they are prepared to drop charges in the retrial of Germany's most prominent banker and others over a 2000 takeover battle in return for a payment of 5.8 million euros (US$7.5 million).

Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann is on trial over disputed bonuses paid to bosses at German phone company Mannesmann AG when it was acquired by Vodafone Group PLC.

Ackermann, who sat on Mannesmann's board at the time, and five co-defendants deny that they illegally engineered bonuses worth nearly 60 million euros.

In a state court hearing on Friday, prosecutor Dirk Negenborn proposed that the case be dropped if Ackermann pays 3.2 million euros, former Mannesmann CEO Klaus Esser 1.5 million euros, and former Mannesmann Chairman Joachim Funk 1 million euros. The other defendants should pay lower sums, it said.

Negenborn said it was a better solution than pushing ahead with long, complicated proceedings, given that the culpability of the defendants and their possible punishments are limited.

Lawyers for Ackermann said they had agreed with prosecutors that the case should be dropped. They forecast that the court would struggle to establish the legality of the Mannesmann rewards.

The judges would find "no certain answers in this unique case," defense attorneys Eberhard Kempf and Klaus Volk said in a statement.

They said Ackermann was willing to sacrifice the chance of acquittal because "it doesn't make up for the burden of the proceedings." They said the settlement was no admission of wrongdoing.

Juergen Thole, a spokesman for the court, said it could decide on the motions on Wednesday.

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