NEWS

Vital step in Siemens slush probe

The judge who has since last year been investigating allegations that the Greek branch of the German electronics and engineering giant Siemens paid bribes to officials of both major political parties and public servants yesterday ordered the bank accounts of two more people to be frozen. A day earlier, investigating magistrate Nikos Zagorianos asked for the accounts of 34 suspects to be frozen. He also took measures to freeze the title deeds and share portfolios of the former employees of Siemens and OTE, businessmen and financiers that are facing trial. Sources said yesterday that the two latest suspects to be barred from conducting financial transactions are former PASOK official Theodoros Tsoukatos and the ex-general manager of Siemens in Greece, Christos Karavelas. Tsoukatos has so far provided the clearest link between Siemens cash and Greece’s main political parties. Last June, Tsoukatos, a close aide of former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said 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. Tsoukatos said that the money was eventually transferred into the party’s coffers and that he did not handle any of the cash personally. Christoforakos is one of 35 other suspects that have had their accounts frozen by Zagorianos, who took over the investigation last summer. Since then, the prosecutor has cooperated with Swiss and German authorities who gave him the green light to question in October former Siemens official Reinhard Sie-kaczek, who was convicted last year by a Munich court of operating a slush fund and handed a two-year jail sentence, a fine of 108,000 euros and suspended for three years. In his testimony Siekaczek alleged that Siemens paid bribes via its Greek operation in order to secure lucrative state contracts. He indicated that these bribes had been paid to politicians as well as to officials at state-run companies. The next step in Zagorianos’s probe is for the judge to charge suspects with specific offenses.