MPs set to examine howitzer purchase

The Supreme Court yesterday received the findings of a prosecutor’s probe into the purchase by the PASOK government in 2000 of some 60 million euros’ worth of artillery, which was never used by the Greek army, and looks set to forward the case to Parliament for further investigation, legal sources said. The 30-page probe, sent to Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos, outlines how the Socialists bought 12 self-propelled 155mm Zuzana howitzers from the Slovakian firm of Kerametal in May 2000, when Akis Tsochadzopoulos was defense minister and Yiannis Sbokos was general director for armaments. The prosecutor investigating the case, Panayiotis Athanassiou, discovered that two years before the purchase, the Army General Staff had issued a report saying the artillery pieces were not suitable because of operating problems as well as concerns over the lack of technical support guarantees, sources said. The howitzers, which were bought for 20.3 billion drachmas (59.6 million euros), were never used by the Greek army and ended up in Cyprus. Also, in a letter seen by Kathimerini, the director of the Slovakian company wrote to Sbokos in July 1999, almost a year before the deal was signed, to inform him that Kerametal was halfway through producing the howitzers. Sources indicate that Linos will send the results of the probe to Parliament so that it can look into the possible liability of former government figures in the arms deal. A parliamentary committee last year investigated the purchase of US and Russian weapons systems by PASOK but has yet to reach a verdict.

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