Siemens slush fund suspect back in jail

Former OTE Telecom vice chairman Giorgos Skarpelis was remanded in custody yesterday for the second time in a few days after appearing before a magistrate investigating claims that he acted as a middleman in the payment of bribes by Siemens Hellas to politicians. Skarpelis appeared in court on charges of money laundering and bribery just days after being rearrested. In an 80-page written deposition, he denied any wrongdoing in connection with an 850-million-euro contract between OTE and Siemens in 1997 and accusations that he helped the Greek branch of the German electronics giant pay off members of the PASOK government of the time. He also denies that he was the person who, according to Siemens internal documents, went under the codename «Franz» who had control of a bank account into which some of the slush money was deposited. The former OTE official had first been questioned on June 3 but had refused to give evidence because his legal team complained that it had not been given all the documents necessary to mount his defense. Skarpelis was remanded in custody and was only released last week after a council of judges decided that his lawyers had been right to appeal against his court appearance and subsequent detention. However, within minutes of being released, Skarpelis was taken back into custody at the request of magistrate Nikos Zagorianos, who is leading the investigation into claims that Siemens Hellas paid millions of euros in bribes to politicians and public officials in an effort to secure lucrative state contracts. Skarpelis’s lawyer said that they would again appeal against his detention, saying that it was «illegal and inhumane.»