Siemens judge probes PASOK link

In an unexpected development, the magistrate leading the Siemens bribery investigation yesterday called the only political figure to have been embroiled in the affair so far to testify. Judge Nikos Zagorianos called for Theodoros Tsoukatos, a former aide of ex-Prime Minister Costas Simitis, to answer questions in connection to his alleged acceptance of money from Siemens Hellas. Tsoukatos, a high-ranking PASOK cadre in the late 1990s, said last year that the cash was a campaign contribution. Zagorianos appears to be linking the money to a contract that Siemens Hellas won to install a digital telephone network for OTE telecom. But Tsoukatos’s lawyer, Dionysis Gouskos, said there is no connection between the two. «The contract was awarded between 1997 and 1998 and the money was handed over a year-and-a-half later,» he told Kathimerini. «Mr Tsoukatos did not have a government position at the time, nor was he a high-ranking OTE executive to have anything to do with the contract.» Tsoukatos will have to answer charges of accepting a bribe and laundering money, both felonies. Another 10 suspects, all businessmen, will be questioned along with Tsoukatos as their bank accounts showed up on the trail of money from Siemens in Germany. Zagorianos’s decision to question Tsoukatos and the other 10 came as a surprise because he was first expected to call OTE officials to testify about the 1998 agreement with Siemens. Tsoukatos has admitted to meeting with the former managing director of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, in 1999 and subsequently accepting 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. PASOK has never confirmed this and moved swiftly to oust Tsoukatos from the party once the story broke. New Democracy has highlighted Tsoukatos’s admission as the only political link in the Siemens case, which, in the conservatives’ view, strengthens their argument that they have never accepted any cash from the electronics firm despite evidence allegedly pointing to the contrary.