Quandary on missile probe

A prosecutor’s report suggesting that politicians in the previous government may have been responsible for Greece signing an allegedly damaging arms deal has presented the ruling conservatives with the dilemma of whether to investigate the matter further, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Senior government officials said that with local elections coming up in October and the reduced attendance of the summer sessions in Parliament starting soon, the prospect of trying to assemble a parliamentary committee to look into the allegations in more detail was not particularly appealing. The government fears that this would simply aggravate tensions between the two main parties – New Democracy and PASOK – without the likelihood of the panel of MPs reaching any results. Prosecutor Panayiotis Athanssiou is investigating whether army officers who were involved in agreeing to a deal to buy Russian missiles had been guilty of wrongdoing that brought profit to themselves and damage to the Greek state from the purchase. Greece bought 21 TOR-M1 systems between 1998 and 2000 for some $473 million, but many of the missiles are still not operational and Greece missed out on some $63 million in offsets. During his probe, military officers told Athanassiou that their political superiors were aware of the details of the deal. Former defense ministers Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou have denied any wrongdoing. However, Swiss authorities have denied Athanassiou’s request for details of bank accounts in Switzerland which may have been connected to the missile deal. One retired lieutenant colonel has been charged with money laundering.