NEWS

Greek businessman arrested over arms deal bribery charges, court says

greek-businessman-arrested-over-arms-deal-bribery-charges-court-says

A Greek businessman has been arrested and charged with money laundering and bribery as part of an investigation into suspicious arms deals, court officials said on Tuesday.

Greece has promised to crack down on corruption and reform its spendthrift state, which many Greeks blame for the country's worst debt crisis. Prosecutors are investigating alleged financial scandals spanning decades in the debt-laden country.

Thomas Liakounakos, who appeared to be a commercial agent for Swedish company Ericsson in Greece more than a decade ago, is accused of paying a bribe of up to 2 million euros ($2.25 million) to a Greek official to secure a deal in 1999, court officials said.

In a statement, Liakounakos strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Ericsson has said it has zero tolerance of corruption.

The Greek order under scrutiny was for the Ericsson airborne surveillance system Erieye and was worth about 532 million euros ($597 million). Ericsson has subsequently sold its defence business to Swedish group Saab.

The money was paid through an offshore company which appears to belong to Liakounakos, the court officials said.

Liakounakos, who was arrested at his Athens home late on Monday appeared before a prosecutor on Tuesday and will remain in custody until he formally responds to the charges on Friday.

“I have not bribed, as I have stated repeatedly, any state official,” Liakounakos said in a statement. “My professional activity has always been transparent and legal and my incomes evident and taxed in Greece.”

The deal was signed under the supervision of then-defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who has in the meantime been found guilty of money laundering.

Antonis Kantas, deputy armaments chief at the Greek Defence Ministry between 1997 and 2002, has admitted to taking bribes over arms deals with foreign companies and mentioned Ericsson in connection with bribes in his court testimony.

Asked about the case, Ericsson did not want to comment on the arrest but said all related documents were handed over with the divestment to the buyer, making it impossible for it to follow up on any claims of wrongdoings.

“Ericsson has zero tolerance against bribes and corruption,” a spokesperson for the company said in an emailed statement.

“If any of the current claims that these funds have been misused is correct, it was clearly against our zero tolerance against corruption policy.”

[Reuters]