NEWS

Tougher penalties foreseen for defense kickbacks

The government is drafting a legal amendment that will introduce tougher penalties for state officials found to have pocketed bribes to secure defense procurement contracts, Deputy Defense Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos told Parliament on Thursday.

Describing the amendment to be submitted to the House next week as a “special criminal clause for corruption,” Lambropoulos said it would result in the imposition of a fine 40 times the value of illegal payments received by ministry officials in exchange for securing defense procurement contracts.

A special parliamentary committee will have six months from the time that a state official is convicted of corruption to activate the clause, Lambropoulos said.

The same clause will oblige ministry officials in charge of procurement to regularly brief Parliament and the Audit Council on all offsetting measures included in all Defense Ministry contracts, Lambropoulos added.

Since the conviction last year of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos for money laundering, dozens of procurement contracts have come under the scrutiny of Greek prosecutors, and high-ranking former defense officials have been questioned in connection with more suspicious deals. Tsochatzopoulos, who served as defense minister from 1996 to 2001, was given a 20-year prison sentence after judges deemed that he pocketed millions of euros in kickbacks from deals for German submarines and Russian anti-aircraft missiles. His wife and many of his business partners were implicated in the complex money-laundering network he is said to have set up to hide the trail of kickbacks and were also convicted.

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