Siemens case: Bank accounts to be opened

Authorities have launched an investigation into Greek nationals implicated in Siemens bribery allegations, after months of delays, as further evidence on the scandal comes to light. Germany’s Siemens is believed to have spent more than 100 million euros over a 17-year period in Greece to bribe local officials in order to secure state contracts through its Greek unit, Siemens Hellas. Siemens, one of the world’s largest electrical and industrial engineering companies, has allegedly paid hundreds of millions of euros in bribes in different countries for telecommunications and other contracts. Sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that Greek authorities took steps last week to open the bank accounts of three key suspects after being asked for the relevant information by German investigative authorities in December 2006. The three Siemens Hellas staff members being investigated are Michael Christoforakos, former chief executive, Prodromos Mavridis, former head of telecommunications, and Dionysis Dendrinos, who was in charge of the telecommunications security system used for the Olympic Games. Sources also said a request from foreign authorities for assistance from their Greek peers had been initially shelved by the previous justice minister, Anastassis Papaligouras. The matter was examined by the minister for a period of four months, the source added. Dozens of Siemens staff members have been giving evidence in the probe in Germany, providing information on the amounts paid to Greek officials in various fields, not just telecommunications. Evidence seen by Kathimerini shows Siemens using a complex network of offshore companies through Mavridis to launder 25 million euros of cash used to pay off state officials. Kickbacks are believed to have been given to officials in both of the two main political parties, PASOK and the ruling conservatives. PASOK last week called for a parliamentary investigative committee to be set up to look into the affair, a request the government is unlikely to agree to. OTE officials have also allegedly received bribes, particularly in the runup to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. OTE telecom has responded to the claims by asking Siemens to name its employees involved in any shady dealings. OTE, which is government-controlled, has also hired a legal consultant in Germany to advise it on the issue.