Ex-PM leads criticism of Siemens report

Former Prime Minister Costas Simitis led the way on Friday in attacking the parliamentary committee that has decided that the House should vote on whether he and 13 former and serving ministers should face further investigation in connection to the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal.

In a statement, the ex-premier accused New Democracy, whose MPs recommended that he should face further action, of engaging in ?extreme opposition.? ?New Democracy prefers dead ends to solutions,? he said. ?The position it took in the report displayed clearly why this country is bedeviled and lagging behind others.?

Simitis, who was prime minister between 1996 and 2004, said the deputies? report was full of ?inaccuracies? and ?misrepresentations.? The ND lawmakers made it clear in their summing-up that they thought the Siemens scandal, which allegedly involved the Greek branch of the German engineering and electronics giant paying millions of euros in bribes to Greek politicians and officials, was purely a product of previous PASOK governments.

Simitis has always denied any involvement in accepting under-the-table payments from Siemens or of being aware of any of his ministers doing so. However, last September Theodoros Tsoukatos, a close aide to Simitis in the 1990s, claimed in his deposition to the committee that it was ?an established practice? for some companies to make donations to political parties. Tsoukatos was ejected from PASOK in June 2008 along with former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis after admitting to accepting money from Siemens.

Tsoukatos admitted to having met with the former managing director of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, in 1999 and accepting a payment of 1 million German marks, or the equivalent of 420,000 euros, on behalf of PASOK. Unlike Tsoukatos, Mantelis has been charged for accepting the equivalent of about 300,000 euros from Siemens. He claims the money was a campaign donation.

A host of former PASOK and New Democracy ministers named in the parliamentary committee?s reports also slammed the recommendations that they should be probed further, underlining just how divisive an issue this could turn out to be for Greece?s two main parties. The atmosphere is expected to become even tenser next week, when Parliament starts to debate the content of the MPs? report.