Mantelis faces criminal charges

Anastasios Mantelis, a former transport minister under the previous PASOK government who earlier this week admitted to accepting payments from the Greek branch of German electronics giant Siemens, was arrested and charged with money laundering yesterday. Authorities could not charge Mantelis with accepting the payments – which he had described in testimony as «pre-election donations» – because the alleged misdeed has expired under the statute of limitations. Instead an Athens prosecutor charged the ex-minister with «seeking to legalize revenues from criminal activity» after it emerged that some of the cash Mantelis received from Siemens Hellas between 1998 and 2000 had been spent on his son’s education. Mantelis’s comments – made before a parliamentary committee – provoked deep unease in the government with some cadres calling for the ex-minister to receive an «exemplary punishment.» Some of the harshest criticism came from former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in whose administration Mantelis had served. Simitis expressed his «sadness and outrage» at Mantelis’s statement and referred to «acts that offend society’s sense of justice.» Soon after Simitis’s comments were made public, a prosecutor lodged the charges against Mantelis and authorities were put on alert at the land and sea borders to avert the ex-minister, who has been working as a consultant to the Azeri government, from leaving the country. A few hours later, Mantelis contacted authorities to say he would cooperate. To ensure this happens, the prosecutor issued a ban on him leaving the country. According to Mantelis’s testimony, 200,000 German marks (around 100,000 euros) were deposited into the Swiss bank account of his best man, Giorgos Tsougranis, in November 1998 by Siemens Hellas. Tsougranis is expected to be charged as an accomplice in the coming days.

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