Second Siemens suspect absconds

Greek judicial authorities were left red-faced for the second time in just a few days after it emerged yesterday that a second suspect in the Siemens cash-for-contracts investigation had left Greece and was in Germany, from where he is unlikely to be extradited. Meanwhile in a surprise development, OTE telecom’s former deputy managing director, Giorgos Skarpelis, and former Siemens executive Ilias Georgiou, were arrested last night in connection with the same investigation. Earlier yesterday, Skarpelis had been given until June 15 to present himself before a prosecutor and Georgiou had been given an extension until June 12. The former general manager of Siemens Hellas, Christos Karavelas, was one of several suspects due to appear before magistrate Nikos Zagorianos yesterday. But, like Michalis Christoforakos, the company’s former managing director, he failed to show up in court and let it be known through his lawyer that he was in Munich. Christoforakos, the main suspect in the probe into the alleged bribing of politicians and public officials, opted to flee to Germany because he has a German passport and citizens of that country are rarely extradited. In Karavelas’s case, sources indicated that he has asked a major law firm in Germany, which has been dealing with the case, to represent him as he intends to fight any extradition request. It seems unlikely that Karavelas, who is accused of being involved in making under-the-table payments to OTE telecom officials between 1997 and 1999, will stand trial in Greece unless he returns to Athens of his own volition. Due to the statute of limitations in Germany, the time in which to prosecute Karavelas has expired and, as a result, judicial authorities there will not agree to his extradition. The disappearance of Karavelas, on the back of Christoforakos’s departure, leaves the Siemens investigation in tatters as they were two of the most important suspects.