Charges filed over Germanos deal

A prosecutor investigating the buyout of retailer Germanos by OTE telecom’s mobile phone arm, Cosmote, filed criminal charges yesterday against persons unknown. After completing an initial investigation, five criminal charges have been brought, relating to breach of trust, money laundering and manipulation of stock prices, said a source. Cosmote, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, paid about 1.6 billion euros to buy the country’s biggest phone retailer in 2006, but the sale price was criticized by the political opposition and some analysts as being much too high. Cosmote said in a statement yesterday that the acquisition was an important strategic move by the company. «(The deal) has contributed decisively to the company’s extremely successful performance in Greece and abroad and has provided Cosmote with strategic and commercial advantages over its competitors,» said Cosmote. «This is proven by the market share of Cosmote and the rate of growth in Greece and abroad.» Prosecutors have been investigating the case for the past two years after the Socialist party’s former telecoms minister, Christos Verelis, filed a suit claiming the deal lacked transparency and was not to the benefit of OTE and its shareholders. PASOK said the state incurred considerable losses from the deal and also questioned the recent deal with Deutsche Telekom. «This development gives rise to even more questions about the handing over of OTE’s management to Deutsche Telekom,» PASOK’s Vasso Papandreou said in a statement. The development is expected to have a far-reaching political impact on the country as the Finance Ministry is believed to have given the green light for the completion of the acquisition. PASOK called for the resignation of Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. Alternate government spokes-man Evangelos Antonaros declined to comment on the charges yesterday, saying he was unaware of the issue.