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Outgoing Siemens Chair Holding Head High

Siemens' outgoing supervisory board chairman, who is departing amid corruption scandals at the company, said in an interview published Sunday that he knew nothing about alleged improper payments during his time at the helm and is leaving with his "head held high."

Heinrich von Pierer, a former chief executive, announced Thursday that he was stepping down early as board chairman and said he hoped a successor could steer the industrial giant into "calmer waters."

"This step is not an admission of guilt and is not desertion," von Pierer was quoted as saying in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

He added that the company's "economic situation" was stable and investigations of "possible illegal payments" are on the right track -- "so now is a fitting moment to step down."

Siemens has been rocked by investigations in Germany, Italy and Switzerland over money taken from corporate accounts and allegedly used to pay bribes to help land telecommunications deals.

In a separate case, a company executive was briefly detained last month in an investigation into payments from Siemens to a company led by the head of Germany's AUB labor organization.

Von Pierer was adamant that he "knew nothing about the ... payments and contracts." He has not been the subject of any of the investigations.

"Siemens is active in 190 countries _ it is not like a medium-sized company where the boss knows on Friday evening how much money is in the till," he was quoted as saying, noting that the company sees millions of transactions every day. "You cannot expect that the chief executive has every detail in sight."

"I am leaving my office with my head held high," von Pierer was quoted as saying.

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