Middleman testifies on missiles

A middleman in one of the deals being investigated by the parliamentary committee probing arms purchases under the previous PASOK government yesterday said that several people made money out of the agreement to the defense minister’s knowledge. Meanwhile, the panel announced it will finish hearing evidence on Friday. Yiannis Yanikos, a publisher in Russia, claimed he made the initial contact with then Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos to set up a deal for Greece to buy Russian-made TOR M1 missile systems. Yanikos claims that he arranged a meeting between Tsochadzopoulos and a representative of the state-owned Russian company Antey in 1997 and then helped negotiate a 20 to 24 percent discount on the weapons. He said he was then frozen out of the deal and missed out on his commission, which went to others. He told the committee that he thought a Russian and a Palestinian had received the money and that the minister knew about it. «Those in the know were well aware that commissions were handed out,» Yanikos said. He is due to continue his testimony today. The committee decided to call its last witness on Friday. Akis Tsochadzopoulos is also due to give evidence today, fellow former defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou tomorrow and current defense minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Friday. Meanwhile, Tzochadzopoulos yesterday launched a lawsuit against Defense Ministry general secretary for procurements Giorgos Zorbas who completed his testimony before the committee on Monday. The former minister is suing for defamation and perjury. Among other things, Tzochadzopoulos claimed that Zorbas was lying when he said that the government had not received any guarantees from the Russians over the offsets for the missile deal.