Greece set to probe Daimler

Greek authorities look set to ask prosecutors in Germany to forward any information they have that points to public officials in Athens accepting bribes from German carmaker Daimler to grant the firm state contracts. The company is under investigation in the USA for allegedly paying bribes to officials in 22 countries, including Greece. As Kathimerini revealed last Sunday, it is alleged that the backhanders were paid to officials in Athens in connection to the purchase of 6,500 army jeeps. Now it appears that the PASOK government wants to hold a probe into these accusations. Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis told the Vima newspaper that there will be an official request for any information that has been gathered so far in Germany and that he will hold a meeting with Supreme Court officials to discuss how the matter should be handled. A report in the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel to be published today claims that Daimler ignored warnings that its books contained suspicious accounts. Der Spiegel claims that a former auditor told the Daimler group in May 2000 that there was a system of foreign accounts that could be used to make improper payments overseas. The company’s sales department reportedly opposed a recommendation to monitor these accounts. A year later, a demand by the auditor that these accounts be shut down was reportedly rejected by a top sales manager. Daimler has admitted making hundreds of improper payments worth tens of millions of euros to government officials in 22 countries from 1998 and 2008, according to a deferred prosecution agreement filed in a Washington court. The company faces fines of almost $200 million in the USA.

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