NEWS

Former defense minister was also to blame, German court says

Two former managers of Ferrostaal AG, a German-based industrial services company, have been convicted of paying bribes for contracts in Greece and Portugal and received suspended prison terms of two years.

The firm has been fined 140 million euros.

The president of the Munich court on Tuesday blamed Greece’s defense minister at the time, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, without naming him. Tsochatzopoulos has been indicted for accepting bribes for the purchase of submarines.

?Submarines are purchased by politicians, not by private individuals,? Skai quoted the court president as saying.

The German company worked with many different intermediaries and aides to have access to Greece’s defense ministry, the court said, while at least a third of the money went to officials at the ministry.

Ferrostaal said at the beginning of the trial on December 15 that it was willing to pay the fine, which was the result of «intensive negotiations.? The company said in a statement Tuesday that it would bear the consequences and pay the fine.

The two former company managers were identified only as Johann- Friedrich Ha., 73, and Hans-Dieter Mue., 73. Ha. was also fined 36,000 euros and must pay 30,000 euros to charities to have the term suspended. Mue. was fined 18,000 euros and must pay 22,000 to charities, according to the statement.

A statement by the ultranationalist LAOS party, which is a member of Greece’s provisional administration, said developments had vindicated the party’s position.

?Those who paid bribes have been put to jail in their country. Those who took bribes in Greece have gotten away with it,? it said.

?It’s time we found out what officials inside the defense ministry received the 21 million euro kickback described in the court ruling,? the party said, urging prime minister Lucas Papademos to ask Berlin for more details on the case.

A preliminary probe into the ?origin of wealth? declarations submitted by politicians for 2009 and posted on Parliament?s website on Tuesday only found irregularities with Tsochatzopoulos’s declaration. [Combined reports]