NEWS

MPs set for own submarine probe

Parliament will be allowed to investigate claims that a former minister and public officials accepted bribes during the purchase of four submarines by the Hellenic Navy if there is enough evidence in a prosecutor?s report to suggest that the deal was corrupt, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said on Wednesday.

Petalotis was speaking after the Justice Ministry handed to Parliament the large case file compiled by a prosecutor. According to sources, the report suggests that former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos should be investigated in connection to the order for the submarines and the contracts that were signed with the German suppliers between 1998 and 2002.

It also proposes that there be a closer probe into the involvement of other government officials after 2002 who played a part in overseeing the fulfillment of the contracts.

Petalotis said that PASOK?s MPs would be asked whether they believe Parliament should hold its own investigation.

The indications so far are that the Socialist deputies would favor such a move even though Tsochatzopoulos is a former PASOK minister. Tsochatzopoulos, who denies any wrongdoing, was ousted from the party last year.

Greece ordered the four Type 214 diesel-electric submarines, manufactured by ThyssenKrupp in Germany, between 2001 and 2005 but the deal, worth 1.26 billion euros, was plagued by complications after Greece rejected the first submarine due to technical problems.

The prosecutor has called 37 people to testify as suspects after an investigation by the financial crimes squad (SDOE) uncovered evidence of under-the-table payments.

A complex system of offshore accounts, under-the-table payments and bogus invoices helped several people, including former Defense Ministry officials, earned a combined total of 230 million euros in bribes, according to an investigation conducted by SDOE.

The investigators believe numerous bribes were paid before the contract was signed.

One of the ways the bill was allegedly inflated, allowing for more under-the-table payments to be made, was for the navy and Defense Ministry to ask for the submarines to be fitted with all sorts of extra equipment.