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Ex-mediator for German defense firm suggests 10 military officials received kickbacks

A broadening corruption scandal gathered pace on Thursday after a former representative of a German defense systems firm suggested that at least 10 members of Greece’s armed forces, including a former chief of staff, received under-the-table payments to secure procurements.

The suspect, 83-year-old Panayiotis Efstathiou, was remanded in custody on Thursday after several hours of testimony before investigating magistrates Gavriil Mallis and Yiannis Stavropoulos. Efstathiou, who used to represent the German firm Atlas, indicated that at least 10 armed forces officials accepted bribes to approve the purchase of arms from Atlas, sources said. These 10 officials include a former chief of staff, another very senior official and the one-time head of a Greek defense systems manufacturer, the sources said.

The 83-year-old middleman is also said to have named three German nationals with ties to Atlas who allegedly provided him with cash to bribe Greek officials, Kathimerini understands.

Additionally Efstathiou allegedly admitted to setting up three offshore companies, one to launder bribe money and the other two for his own purposes. The first firm was used to channel a total of 1.5 million euros in bribes to armed forces officials, according to Efstathiou’s testimony. A similar-sized sum is said to have been given to Antonis Kantas, a former procurements manager at the Defense Ministry who has implicated several alleged mediators, including Efstathiou in a broadening probe.

According to Efstathiou’s testimony, Kantas demanded the cash to secure the contract for Atlas which related to the installation of sonar on German U-214 submarines and the purchase of the anti-aircraft system Asrad.

On Friday, magistrates are to question another suspect in the probe, Dimitris Papachristos, who formerly represented another German firm, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. In his testimony, Kantas claimed to have been given 750,000 euros by Papachristos to secure the sale of 24 self-propelled howitzers.

Lawyers representing Papachristos, 78, have said their client is willing to cooperate with judicial authorities but that he suffers from amnesia.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday Jan 2, 2014 (20:02)  
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