NEWS

Prosecutor admits Siemens dead end

The prosecutor who initially handled the investigation into allegations that the Greek branch of Siemens paid bribes to politicians and public officials told a parliamentary committee yesterday that he was unable to prove whether these claims were true because he could not gain access to the necessary bank details. Deputy appeals prosecutor Panayiotis Athanassiou, who was in charge of the Siemens probe between 2006 and 2008, appeared before the panel of MPs that began investigating the affair last month and caused some raised eyebrows when he admitted that he was unable to establish which OTE telecoms officials were paid bribes by the electronics and engineering giant so it could secure state contracts. «I don’t have the slightest doubt that OTE was accepting kickbacks,» said Athanassiou. «But how was I supposed to find out whether the state was being defrauded?» he asked, revealing that OTE could not confirm to him that the company had suffered financial damage as a result of signing a deal with Siemens Hellas. Athanassiou gave a similar answer when he was questioned about whether he had been able to discover anything about the involvement of politicians in corrupt practices. «I could not find evidence pointing to criminal offenses committed by specific politicians,» said the prosecutor. He added that the investigation would never move forward unless judicial authorities give the go-ahead for suspects’ bank accounts to be opened. Athanassiou said that he asked to have access to 22 accounts but was only allowed to check the details of four. His comments came as it was revealed that former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos received a suspended 10-month sentence in Germany after a justice of the peace court found that he had was guilty of breach of faith because, by his own admission, he used slush funds to pay off politicians. Christoforakos claims he paid money to former PASOK treasurer Costas Geitonas and the late New Democracy treasurer Yiannis Vartholomaios. The ex-CEO has won an extradition battle to remain in Germany and not stand trial in Greece.