Tasos Mantelis, the only Greek politician to have been convicted in connection with the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal, told an Athens court Tuesday that a payment he accepted from the German electronics firm when he was transport minister was an election campaign contribution, not a bribe.
Mantelis was given a three-year suspended prison term in 2011 over the payment of 450,000 Deutsche marks (about 230,000 euros), a verdict that was upheld by the Supreme Court in February of last year.
His testimony Tuesday was heard by a criminal appeals court and he presented much the same line of defense.
Mantelis has always maintained that the money he received from the German company in 1998 was a donation to a pre-election campaign. However, 1998 was not an election year. In his testimony Tuesday, he referred to a pre-election climate that had prevailed at the time as, ahead of a presidential election, Greek media and politicians were speculating about snap elections.
The money was allegedly paid to the former minister after Siemens secured the so-called 8002 contract to digitize OTE telecom’s network in 1997. Mantelis noted that the OTE contract was signed in 1997, before he assumed his post as minister.
Mantelis is expected to elaborate when his trial resumes on December 8.
A court hearing the trial of dozens of suspects implicated in the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal began last Friday but was almost immediately postponed until December 15 as only 30 of the 64 defendants appeared in court.