NEWS

Ex-minister convicted over undeclared Siemens cash

Former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis became on Wednesday the first politician to receive a prison sentence, albeit a suspended one, in connection to accepting money from the German electronics and engineering giant Siemens, which is alleged to have paid millions of euros in bribes to Greek political figures, parties and public servants to secure state contracts.

Mantelis?s conviction came on the same day that Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis revealed that he is about to write to Siemens in a bid to reach an out-of-court settlement with the company in relation to the damages suffered by the Greek state as a result of the bribes paid to its officials.

An Athens appeals court handed Mantelis a three-year suspended sentence for submitting a false source-of-wealth declaration. The former minister was called to testify after revealing before a parliamentary committee last year that he had accepted money from Siemens, although he insisted that it was an election campaign contribution rather than a bribe.

Mantelis is alleged to have accepted the equivalent of about 200,000 euros from Siemens in two payments. The former minister argued that the money was never used and that it did not technically belong to him as it was paid into a friend?s bank account. The court, however, rejected his argument and said that he should have declared the money. It also imposed a 7,500-euro fine on Mantelis and withdrew his voting rights for a year.

Mantelis has yet to stand trial as part of the main investigation into the Siemens investigation. He faces charges of money laundering, which is a felony, and has been bailed pending his appearance in court.

Apart from the outstanding judicial investigation, the Siemens scandal continues to be an open wound for Greece as it has not reached any settlement with the German company. Kastanidis said that he would be sending a letter to Siemens on Monday to ask the firm to provide details about any illegal activities in Greece with a view to reaching a financial settlement.

Sources said that Kastanidis would ask Siemens to cooperate by the end of May or else face the prospect of being fined by the Greek government in accordance with the country?s anti-money laundering legislation.