Judiciary steps up parallel corruption probes

Suspect questioned in bank loan scandal as two more arrested for submarines

The judiciary stepped up a corruption probe on two fronts on Monday, arresting two officials suspected of taking under-the-table payments for a submarine deal and questioning the first suspect in a new scandal embroiling the state-led Hellenic PostBank (TT) in the issuing of millions of euros in unsecured loans.

The former managing director of Skaramangas Shipyards, Sotiris Emmanouil, and an associate of ex-Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Yiannis Beltsios, were arrested in connection with taking bribes to secure arms deals. Emmanouil is alleged to have received some 23 million euros in kickbacks to secure submarine deals with German firm HDW Ferrostaal. Authorities arrested him in his luxury home, which was subsequently seized.

Warrants for the arrest of the two men were issued after former Defense Ministry official Apostolos Kantas alleged during testimony that they had received under-the-table payment.

Both men were given an extension to prepare their defense – Emmanouil until Friday and Beltsios until Saturday – and are to remain in custody until then.

In a related development, sources said 7.5 million euros was returned to the Greek state by Giorgos Kamaris, the representative of an offshore firm believed to have been set up by Yiannis Sbokos, a close associate of former Defense Minister Tsochatzopoulos, in order to cover the kickback trail. Sbokos was jailed for money laundering, along with the ex-minister, in October.

Judicial officials also moved forward on Monday with the probe into TT, which is alleged to have granted huge loans, without guarantees, to entrepreneurs, with much of the money said to have ended up in the businessmen’s personal bank accounts.

TT’s former chairman, Angelos Filippidis, is expected to be extradited to Greece from Turkey without delay, sources indicated as magistrates started hearing the explanations of suspects embroiled in the affair.

Filippidis, who was arrested in Istanbul late on Friday, remained in custody at the Maltepe prison on the city’s outskirts on Monday. The former TT chairman, who has insisted that all the loans were issued properly, had six different currencies and a Swiss residence permit on him when he was arrested. Authorities believe he might have been planning to travel to Switzerland to check on bank accounts there that are under investigation by Greek prosecutors.

Judicial officials on Monday questioned a senior executive of TT, Marios Varotsis. He was given conditional release after posting 300,000 euros in bail. Another ex-TT employee, Charalambos Giakoudis, is to face questioning today, as will a key suspect – the owner of Alpha TV channel and the Interamerican insurance company, Dimitris Kontominas, who is alleged to have been granted a 110-billion loan by TT.

Although Kontominas is in an Athens hospital undergoing treatment for respiratory problems, he is not expected to receive favorable treatment by prosecutors who are likely to visit him in his hospital ward.