Parties got pre-election cash boost

The country’s two main political parties allegedly received the equivalent of 2 million euros from German technology giant Siemens ahead of Greek general elections in 2000 while a smaller – now defunct – party received another 450,000 euros, Kathimerini has been told by a former Siemens official on trial in Germany for corporate corruption. «The evidence of political funding is available to Greek authorities if they are willing to use it,» the official told Kathimerini from Munich at the end of last week. According to the source, officials at the German firm paid 4 million German marks (about 2 million euros) into the accounts of the two major parties – conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK – in early 2000, a few months ahead of April elections in which PASOK retained its hold on power. The same source said that a party that no longer exists received an additional 870,000 German marks (about 450,000 euros) from Siemens later that year. «We were sending (the cash) to support the party with which we were doing business,» the source said without elaborating. He said that the «parties expected to win the elections» received an increase in payments from the German firm, noting that the company’s own coffers had been boosted by deals with the country’s telecommunications operator and railway organization. As the allegations against both main political parties accumulated, the only Greek official to have acknowledged any Greek wrongdoing in the Siemens affair told a prosecutor that nearly half a million euros was paid into PASOK’s coffers. Theodoros Tsoukatos, an aide to former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, reiterated his claim that he met with the then managing director of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, and accepted a payment for PASOK’s election campaign. Speaking to reporters on Saturday after testifying before a prosecutor probing the Siemens affair on Saturday, Tsoukatos appeared to take a swipe at PASOK, saying he had been used as a fall guy for the party’s alleged involvement in accepting bribes from Siemens. PASOK leader George Papandreou is reportedly considering changing the party’s name and symbol in an an apparent attempt to distance it from growing links to the scandal. New Democracy officials said over the weekend that the probe has yet to implicate any ND officials.