UPDATE 1-Ex-Siemens employee pleads guilty in U.S. to Argentine bribery scheme

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NEW YORK, March 15 (Reuters) - A former Siemens AG employee pleaded guilty on Thursday to a U.S. charge that he took part in a bribery scheme to win a contract for the German engineering company to make national identity cards for Argentina's government.

Eberhard Reichert, a 78-year-old German citizen, entered his plea to one count of conspiracy in connection with what prosecutors have called a $100 million bribery scheme at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan.

Reichert admitted that while working as a manager at the company's Siemens Business Services subsidiary between 1996 and 2001, he had approved fake invoices and contracts intended to disguise bribe payments to Argentine officials.

"It was the greatest mistake of my life to have participated in this conduct," he said. "I regret this conduct deeply and I apologize for it."

Reichert, who began working at Siemens in 1964, also said he understood that under his plea deal he had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Reichert was arrested in Croatia in September, nearly six years after U.S. authorities first charged him. He agreed to be extradited to New York and was among six Siemens employees indicted on U.S. corruption charges in 2011.

Andres Truppel, a former chief financial officer of Siemens Argentina and dual citizen of Germany and Argentina, is the only other indicted employee to have appeared in a U.S. court.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in September 2015 and agreed to cooperate with authorities.

Siemens won the $1 billion Argentine national identity card contract in 1998.

Throughout the project, Siemens executives committed to paying nearly $100 million in bribes to members of the Argentine government and opposition party and to candidates for office, according to U.S. prosecutors.

In 2008, Siemens agreed to pay more than $1.3 billion to resolve wide-ranging bribery investigations in the United States and Germany, which included the Argentine contract.

As part of that agreement, Siemens and its Argentina subsidiary pleaded guilty in the United States to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars companies from bribing foreign officials. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York Editing by Tom Brown)