Criminal charges for ex-OSE chiefs

First instant court prosecutor Popi Papandreou has filed criminal charges of breach of faith against 13 former executives of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) between 2004 and 2007 for decisions that allegedly damaged the company.

A section of the case file sent to Parliament a few months ago looks into possible culpability of former conservative Transport Minister Michalis Liapis. Any crimes by Liapis would have expired under Greece?s statute of limitations.

The investigation was prompted by allegations of acts and omissions made by high-ranking OSE officials in the handling of procurements and the fulfilment of contractual obligations.

Evidence in the case file indicates that attempts to change the specifications in a tender for the purchase of electrically powered trains at the cost of 3.2 billion euros eventually held up the program.

Buying mixed-use (freight and trasport) engines with a top speed of 180 km per hour was unanimously approved by a cross-party parliamentary committee in 2006, but the deal never materialized after attempts to lower the maximum speed of the trains.

The revised specifications were rejected by the parliamentary committee but, according to the case file, the OSE board scrapped the original agreement and instead decided to buy 50 diesel-powered engines for freight trains with a maximum speed of 120 km per hour.

The program is currently in the air, which means OSE is missing out on potential profits.

There is also evidence in the court file suggesting that OSE management failed to impose fines on a contractor who delayed the delivery of an integrated information system for handling public transport.

Finally, OSE is alleged to have leased eight Desiro passenger trains for 16 months at 1 million euros a month when the firm should have received the rolling stock free of charge. The trains should have been given to OSE for free between January 2004 and April 2007 after the Siemens-Hellenic Shipyards consortium failed to deliver new rolling stock on time.

The consortium still owed some 8.3 million euros when the lease agreement was signed and, according to the prosecutor, that money would have been nearly enough to actually buy the trains.

The case has been forwarded to a magistrate, who is expected to summon the 13 accused to testify.

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