NEWS

Christoforakos return off

A bid to secure the return of the main suspect in the Siemens bribery case, Michalis Christoforakos, to Greece hit the buffers yesterday when a top German court decided to halt the process pending an appeal by his lawyers. The Federal Constitutional Court of Karlsruhe informed Greek judicial authorities at about noon that it had decided to hear Christoforakos’s appeal against his extradition. A Munich court had last week cleared the way for the ex-Siemens Hellas CEO to be sent back to Greece. Christoforakos’s lawyers had appealed the verdict, arguing that their client was not guaranteed a fair trial in Greece. They based their argument on the fact that two other suspects in the corruption probe, former Siemens Hellas executive Giorgos Skarpelis and ex-OTE telecom official Ilias Georgiou, had been released from custody after a council of judges ruled that in both cases magistrate Nikos Zagorianos had been wrong to arrest them before giving their legal teams full access to all the relevant case documents. The constitutional court’s decision to examine the appeal came as a surprise to authorities in Athens. A prosecutor and several police officers had been due to make the trip to Munich to bring Christoforakos back. It is unclear how long the German court will now take to examine the appeal. Sources said it could take between two and eight months, unless it rules that the appeal is groundless, in which case Christoforakos would soon be on an airplane back to Athens. The delay in his return sparked the expected exchange of barbs between New Democracy and PASOK. The Socialists accused the government of simply wanting Christoforakos to be extradited so they can parade him in handcuffs in front of cameras. «The Christoforakos reality show has been postponed but we do not know for how long,» said PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou. «PASOK is making a mockery of itself,» said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. «It has to decide whether it wants or is afraid of the extradition of the accused to our country.»