Naval spending in murky waters

The previous PASOK government went ahead with a 380-million-euro modernization program for six naval frigates two years ago, despite the head of the navy suggesting it could be achieved for a fifth of the cost, according to documents seen by Sunday’s Kathimerini. The contract for the modernization was awarded to French defense electronics group Thales SA in February 2003. Michel Josserand, a former chief executive of one of its subsidiaries, Thales Engineering and Consulting, alleged last week that the company had paid out huge amounts in bribes to win contracts. Josserand claimed Greece was among the countries where illegal commissions were paid. The Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) approved the modernization of the ships in November 2002. But the head of the navy, Antonis Antoniadis, expressed his concerns in a note to the Socialist defense minister, Yiannos Papantoniou. Antoniadis said the decision was «operationally not acceptable and quite costly.» He said the ships would be withdrawn by 2017 and suggested adopting a less expensive upgrade. In an extract of his testimony to police which was published in French newspaper Liberation on Friday, Josserand alleges that Thales had tried to win the contract for the security at the Athens Olympics but lost out because the firm did not offer large enough bribes to Greek government officials. Thales has denied allegations about corruption made by Josserand, who was fired from the company in May and placed under investigation.