Bribe scandal grips PASOK

A former close colleague of ex-Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday became the first person to publicly admit that he accepted money from Siemens but Theodoros Tsoukatos, a high-ranking PASOK cadre in the late 1990s, said the cash was a campaign contribution. Tsoukatos, who is due to face prosecutor Panayiotis Athanassiou on Monday, issued a statement saying that he met with the former managing director of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, in 1999 and accepted a payment of 1 million marks, or the equivalent of 420,000 euros, on behalf of PASOK. «As a member of PASOK’s central and executive committees, I played an active role in organizing the campaign for the elections,» said Tsoukatos. «I received a Mr Christoforakos at my office and accepted an offer for a financial contribution to the party’s campaign. I was asked to supply a foreign bank account for the money to be deposited in.» Tsoukatos said that the money was eventually transferred into the party’s coffers and that he did not handle any of the cash personally. The release of the statement by the former PASOK official spurred the party into action and, after a meeting chaired by leader George Papandreou, it was made known that any member implicated in the Siemens bribery scandal would be thrown out of the party. This looks to have ended Tsoukatos’s association with the Socialist party. Tassos Mantelis, who was transport and communications minister at the time, also looks to have no future in PASOK, despite his assertions that he has not been involved in any wrongdoing. Both Mantelis and Tsoukatos were close associates of Simitis, who was prime minister between 1996 and 2004. The former premier also issued a statement distancing himself from any connection to the allegations. «I am sorry that members of PASOK have been implicated in the Siemens affair, should these allegations prove to be true,» he said. «This casts a shadow and creates doubt about a great effort in which a lot of people, who had nothing to do with this, were involved.»