23 January 1998 12:00 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--A top director at Swedish pharmaceutical group Astra has left the company, following revelations in the US trial of Astra's former US head on tax evasion charges.
Andreas Feulner, president of Astra Germany and regional director, left the company on 21 January. Astra spokesman Staffan Ternby told CNI Tuesday that the state prosecutor in the Bildman trial had shown clear evidence that Feulner had taken part in yacht trips, organised by Bildman and used for liaisons with prostitutes.
Ternby said Business Week magazine had published claims about the boat trips in May 1996. Astra had launched an internal investigation covering all the people who had visited its US subsidiary, but Feulner had denied being involved.
"The US prosecutor...has other means to work with…and he has got clear evidence that Mr Feulner had been invited and had accepted to participate in these boat trips," Ternby said. "And therefore it is also accepted that Mr Feulner had not been honest in his discussions with top management."
Feulner did not respond to CNI's efforts to contact him.
Bildman, who was dismissed by Astra two years ago, on Monday pleaded guilty in the US District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts to three counts of a 35-count indictment.
According to an Associated Press (AP) report of the case, Bildman admitted filing false US federal tax returns in failing to report over $1m of income between 1993 and 1995.
Prosecutors described a "smorgasbord of lavish spending," and said Bildman paid for prostitutes, family holidays and home renovations with Astra money. But his defence lawyers claimed his Swedish bosses knew about his spending and encouraged it as "the Astra way," according to AP.
Bildman will be sentenced on 8 April, along with a former company consultant, Lars Magnusson, who on Monday pleaded guilty to a felony charge relating to lies he told about destroying documents.
Prosecutors said Bildman's guilty plea means he has agreed to serve 21 months in a federal prison. He must also pay the US government more than $300 000 in back taxes and interest. He did not plead guilty to other charges including mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, AP reported. Ternby claimed to CNI that Bildman's tax bill could be $1m.
Bildman was accused of sexual harassment, but Astra said cases against him had been dropped. However, AP reported Monday that Astra USA was a party in several civil lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, and was the subject of an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Ternby said Astra was "keeping all the options open" on whether to take further action in a civil court against Bildman. There was no indication that there was any reason to take further action against Feulner, he said.
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