Suspicions of widespread corruption at SGS

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In room B1 of the Geneva courthouse, the creaking parquet floor, the plexiglass panes and the masks quickly render the testimonies inaudible. Representatives from SGS, the multinational corporation that dominates the inspection and certification industry, sit in a row. They are seated next to the opposing party, that of Thomas, a former executive of this Geneva firm. This German 50-year-old says he was unfairly dismissed in 2019. He was said to have been dismissed after having informed his management of numerous signs of corruption in the service he headed.

Its history makes it possible to penetrate as rarely into the discreet world of SGS. His words come from the one who was at the head of Transport, one of the big departments of the company (before its dissolution in 2020). Thomas led a team of 5,600 people, supervised teams of technical inspections of vehicles (the equivalent of the auto office of the canton of Geneva) around the world. He did not rule out the possibility of succeeding the general manager, Frankie Ng, after fourteen years of service and promotions in the house. Everything changes, according to him, in 2018, when he says he faces oddities evoking bribes. He communicates this to the compliance teams, especially since SGS has a “code of integrity” requiring employees to share their doubts in such situations. The clues multiply, his alerts too but, in his eyes, they hit a wall, as if, each time, we were hushing up the affair.