NEWS

Ex-minister took Siemens cash

A former transport minister has become the second cadre of ruling PASOK to admit to accepting payments from the Greek branch of German electronics and engineering giant Siemens, it emerged yesterday. In a development that has provoked unease amid the ranks of the government, Anastasios Mantelis, who was transport minister under the previous PASOK government, reportedly told a parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens bribery scandal that 200,000 German marks (the equivalent of around 100,000 euros) which had been paid into the Swiss bank account of his best man, Giorgos Tsougranis, in November 1998 had been deposited there by Siemens on his behalf. Mantelis reportedly told the committee that the money had been given as a «pre-election donation» as he had been planning to run as a candidate for Greater Athens in the next parliamentary polls. Mantelis is also alleged to have claimed that the 200,000 marks given to him accounted for just a fraction of some 10 million marks (about 500,000 euros) paid to state officials by the firm in a bid to secure lucrative contracts. Government sources yesterday dismissed these comments attributed to Mantelis as «mere bravado,» noting that the former minister faced no risk as the alleged misdeed has already expired under the statute of limitations. According to the probe, the 200,000 marks ostensibly given to Mantelis to fund an election campaign were not spent on electioneering. A portion of the money is alleged to have been spent on schooling fees for the former minister’s son. The remainder was transferred to a Greek bank account in Mantelis’s name after the Siemens bribery scandal broke in 2007 and the Greek judiciary informed Swiss authorities that it needed access to the account containing the suspicious funds. Mantelis is the second PASOK cadre to admit to taking money from the Greek subsidiary of Siemens. In June 2008, Theodoros Tsoukatos, a close aide of former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said he met with the ex-managing director of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, in 1999 and accepted 1 million marks, or the equivalent of 420,000 euros, on behalf of PASOK.