NEWS

Key Siemens witness lost

A day after former Siemens managing director Michalis Christoforakos failed to appear in court in Athens, where his testimony was expected to be vital in the probe into the cash-for-contracts scandal, the feeling among judicial sources was that he has no intention of returning to Greece. Sources familiar with extradition procedures told Kathimerini yesterday that they have ruled out the possibility that Christoforakos fled to Germany simply to buy time. He had been due to face magistrate Nikos Zagorianos on Wednesday but did not turn up. The former Siemens Hellas telecommunications manager, Prodromos Mavridis, did appear and was remanded in custody after his deposition. Christoforakos and Mavridis allegedly operated a slush fund from which they paid off public officials and politicians to secure contracts. Christoforakos has both Greek and German passports. His decision to go to Germany appears to have been well planned as, according to judicial sources, it is very rare for the German authorities to agree to the extradition of one of their citizens. Zagorianos has issued an international warrant for Christoforakos’s arrest but this is likely to be rejected by German prosecutors. One indication that he was preparing to leave Greece was that in January he transferred the ownership of several properties to his children. Since Christoforakos was a star witness in the probe, which has been running for more than four years, questions are being asked about why he was not remanded in custody sooner. «The case is being investigated by justice and the government will not intervene,» said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. In a related development, a group calling itself Popular Will claimed it had planted a time bomb that went off outside a stockbrokerage in Kolonaki on Wednesday evening. The firm is run by Giorgos Trepeklis, who was the representative of the US technology firm SAIC, which won the contract in cooperation with Siemens to provide the security system for the Athens Olympics in 2004. A probe into the awarding of this contract was the precursor of the investigation into Siemens. Nobody was injured in the blast.