Probe into arms deals given one more month

After fierce disagreement, the parliamentary committee probing arms deals carried out by the previous PASOK government, which was due to conclude its investigation before Christmas, yesterday decided to extend the deadline to January 14. The 24-member committee, which had been hearing evidence for the second day from former Defense Ministry General Director for Armaments Yiannis Sbokos, argued long and hard over how much longer it should sit for. Several suggestions were batted back and forth between New Democracy and PASOK members. The latter objected to a proposal that the committee should conclude its business on January 20, as it coincided with the start date of PASOK’s annual conference. One PASOK MP, Ilias Papailias, refused to accept that the committee should extend its deadline at all. He was the only member to vote against the proposal to sit until December 21. The disagreement became so intense at one point that veteran Socialist MP Alexandros Akrivakis threatened to walk out of the session before the January 14 date was adopted. The committee has agreed to deliver its findings on the same day. The committee decided, with less opposition, to investigate bank accounts held at the Cypriot Popular Bank and the Swiss Credit Agricole Indosuez. Recent press reports have linked accounts at these banks to suspicious transfers of millions of US dollars. The committee is investigating the purchase of US radar systems and Russian missiles while Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou were defense ministers. The former ministers have yet to testify before the parliamentary committee. If found guilty of any wrongdoing, they could have their parliamentary immunity to prosecution removed.