Siemens probe turns to family of key suspect

Greek judicial authorities, who were left red-faced by the disappearance of two key suspects in the Siemens cash-for-contracts probe, attempted yesterday to restore some credibility to their investigation by ordering the arrest of the family of one of the men who has fled the country. In a move that raises the stakes in the long-running probe, late on Monday magistrate Nikos Zagorianos issued warrants for the arrest of the wife of former Siemens Hellas general manager Christos Karavelas as well as his two children. One of Karavelas’s daughters, a 23-year-old, was arrested late on Monday at the family home in northern Athens. Her mother and sister were arrested yesterday morning at Athens International Airport as they returned from Rhodes. All three appeared before Zagorianos, charged with being accessories to money laundering, which they deny. The 23-year-old was accused of receiving transfers of 418,000 euros and 582,000 dollars in two bank accounts in Greece that she had joint access to with her father. It is alleged that this money was earned illegally while Karavelas was in charge of the telecommunications department at Siemens Hellas between 1996 and 1998. Karavelas was due to appear before Zagorianos last week but fled to Germany instead in an apparent bid to avoid prosecution in Greece. However, it emerged that before fleeing he transferred more than 3 million euros to Uruguay via Panama so that he could buy a property in the South American country. According to information obtained by Kathimerini, in 2004 and 2005 Karavelas brought 14.5 million euros into Greece from accounts in Germany and Switzerland. He then distributed this money among several accounts in Greece and Cyprus and only made the Uruguay move once the preliminary investigation into the Siemens scandal had concluded. Sources also indicated that authorities in Britain had notified their counterparts in Greece in January that Karavelas was trying to move large amounts of money. Karavelas wants to be tried in Germany but sources said yesterday that the latest development in Greece may convince him to return to Athens. No action has been taken against the children of former Siemens Hellas managing director Michalis Christoforakos, who also skipped his court date only to resurface in Germany, as they are under the age of 18.