NEWS

Ex-PM to face Siemens inquiry

Former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is set to be one of the witnesses who will give evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into allegations that the Greek branch of German electronics and engineering giant Siemens paid millions of euros in bribes to politicians and public officials. A plenary session in Parliament yesterday approved the immediate setting up of a committee of deputies to investigate the cash-for-contracts scandal. It will have to deliver its report by March 17. New Democracy was concerned that Karamanlis would be asked to answer questions about the Vatopedi land-exchange scandal in a separate parliamentary investigation which will also take place over the next two months. However, PASOK revealed yesterday that it wants to call the ex-premier to give evidence as part of the Siemens inquiry. Socialist deputy Pantelis Economou indicated Karamanlis would be questioned about revelations that he sent a thank you letter to former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos in relation to campaign contributions he made to New Democracy ahead of the 2004 general election. «I am sure that the former prime minister has the will and the ability to enlighten us,» said Economou. ND has played down the letter, saying it was a standard note of thanks sent out to campaign contributors, all of which were signed by Karamanlis. «We will not accept an effort to apportion blame and, for reasons of political expediency, the use of trivial information at the expense of more significant facts,» responded former Interior Minister and current conservative MP Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who reminded PASOK deputies that their party is the only one to be directly connected to payments from Siemens. He was referring to the case of Theodoros Tsoukatos, a former aide of ex-Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Tsoukatos has claimed that his party kept double books and accepted contributions above the legal limit. Tsoukatos has admitted accepting more than 400,000 euros from Siemens Hellas, which he says he paid into PASOK’s coffers, though this is denied by the party.