NEWS

Tycoon faces charges of spying, fraud

A prosecutor yesterday charged one of Greece’s most prominent businessmen, Intracom telecom supplier founder and chairman, Socrates Kokkalis, with six felonies, including espionage on behalf of the former East Germany. The felony charges involve alleged espionage on behalf of the now-defunct East Germany (where Kokkalis grew up and studied) until 1989, fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. He is also accused of offering and taking bribes. The news of the charges sent Intracom’s stock plummeting, to close down 16.16 percent. Kokkalis’s gaming systems operator, Intralot, lost 11.20 percent. The ASE general index dropped 1.74 percent. The espionage charges stem from claims made by New Democracy party MP Panos Kammenos in the past. Other charges arise from an investigation into reports in Kathimerini last year about Kokkalis’s failed venture to set up a Lotto system in Russia. German authorities sent prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos evidence allegedly showing that Kokkalis was hired by the East German secret police, the Stasi, to provide Western technological secrets. Kokkalis is also the chairman of the Olympiakos soccer club. He was listed 421 on the Forbes list of world billionaires in 2001, with an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion. Yesterday he denied the charges, saying they were groundless and part of a smear campaign conducted by «well-known circles, through the same political personalities – but also the newspapers which have specialized, according to their orders, in a war against me.» He said that such charges had collapsed before in court. The chief prosecutor of the Court of the First Instance, Nikos Vazaios, is to name an investigating magistrate today to begin summoning witnesses. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said, «It is self-evident that the independent judiciary has a duty to conduct its work within the context of the rule of law.» New Democracy said, «Justice is called upon to investigate a case that concerns not only the State, but the national interest as well.»