Greek representative of German arms firm arrested in Athens

The Greek representative of German arms firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann was arrested in Athens on Monday on suspicion of bribing a Defense Ministry official to secure the sale of military equipment.

Dimitris Papachristou was taken into custody after Antonis Kantas, the ex-deputy head of procurements at the ministry between 1996 and 2002, alleged he was one of several middlemen who paid him a total of 16 million dollars in kickbacks to clinch contracts.

Kantas claims the 195-million-euro deal for the sale of 24 self-propelled howitzers was agreed after Papachristou said the German firm would pay the ex-official 0.5 percent of the contract’s value. Kantas told judges that as soon as the deal was inked in 2002, he received 550,000 euros in a Swiss bank account, 100,000 euros at a German bank and another 100,000 euros in cash.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, which also signed a deal in 2003 to supply Greece with 170 Leopard tanks – another contract under investigation, denies making any under-the-table payments to Kantas.

The evidence given by Kantas is expected to lead to more suspects being questioned. One of those accused of paying bribes, 83-year-old Panayiotis Efstathiou, has already told authorities he would cooperate with their inquiry, sources said.