Christoforakos questioning begins

Munich prosecutors yesterday began questioning former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos, the main suspect in the bribery case involving the Greek branch of the German electronics giant, as two former PASOK officials admitted that money from the company had ended up in the party’s coffers. A German prosecutor visited Christoforakos in prison to begin evaluating the information that the former top executive has about alleged under-the-table payments to Greek politicians and public officials. Sources said Christoforakos was informed that he was told he would have to cooperate with German authorities, giving them details about Siemens officials in Germany that were embroiled in the affair as well as the names of politicians in Greece who accepted bribes, if he wants his bid to fight extradition to Greece to have any success. Alfons Obermeier, a spokesman for the Munich prosecutor’s office, said that German authorities concurred with the view of Greek judicial officials that some of Christoforakos’s alleged offenses took place after 2003 and therefore were not subject to the statute of limitations. In Greece, meanwhile, a former PASOK treasurer, Spyros Avgerinos, told investigating magistrate Nikos Zagorianos that the party had accepted money from Siemens. Former PASOK cadre Theodoros Tsoukatos is so far the only political figure to admit that he took money from Christoforakos. Last June, Tsoukatos, a close aide of former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said that in 1999 he accepted 1 million marks, or the equivalent of 420,000 euros, on behalf of PASOK. According to sources, Avgerinos told the judge that Tsoukatos had paid such an amount into party coffers. Former PASOK administrative official Dimitra Papachristou gave similar testimony, thereby seeming to support Tsoukatos’s argument that he was simply accepting a campaign contribution on behalf of the party.