Siemens probe progress

Greek judicial authorities have been given the go ahead to question the key figure in the Siemens bribery scandal as they attempt to find out more about Greek officials who may have received irregular payments from the German electronics giant. Sources said yesterday that the prosecutor’s office in Munich has given Greek investigating magistrate Nikos Zagorianos the green light to interview former Siemens manager Reinhard Siekaczek with regard to claims that the company’s Greek branch paid bribes to politicians in Athens to secure contracts. A Munich court last month convicted Siekaczek, a former manager of Siemens’s ICN fixed-line telephone network division, of breach of trust in the scandal’s first trial. Prosecutors said the ex-manager set up a complex network of shell corporations to siphon off company money over several years. They said the money was used as bribes to help secure contracts abroad by paying off would-be suppliers, government officials and potential customers. So far, Greek prosecutors have not found any evidence linking politicians to any under-the-table payments. However, the investigation was recently passed on to Zagorianos, who hopes to gain some vital insight from Siekaczek. The ex-manager was given a two-year jail sentence, which has been suspended for three years. During questioning in Germany, Siekaczek allegedly told authorities that the then general manager of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, would use 2 percent of the company’s annual turnover to bribe politicians from Greece’s two main parties. Further revelations could be damaging for both ruling New Democracy and the main opposition PASOK party. New Democracy has so far denied receiving any bribes from Siemens although a former PASOK official has admitted to accepting more than 400,000 euros from Christoforakos in 1999, although the Socialists insist that the money was an election campaign donation. A preliminary investigation by prosecutors in Athens has failed to come up with any evidence to warrant any politicians facing corruption charges.