Ex-minister’s assets scrutinized

A state committee set up to investigate money laundering yesterday called for the freezing of a Greek bank account belonging to 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. The committee is to probe all the assets of the former minister, who on Thursday was banned from leaving the country and charged with «seeking to legalize revenues from criminal activity» after it emerged that some of the cash he received from Siemens Hellas between 1998 and 2000 had been spent on his son’s education. A cross-party financial committee is also seeking access to all the declaration of income statements («pothen esches») made by Mantelis during his political career. According to sources, the head of the anti-money-laundering committee, Stelios Grozos, has also frozen a Greek bank account in the name of Giorgos Tsougranis, Mantelis’s best man. It is thought that undetermined sums were transferred into this account from another account opened at a Swiss bank by Tsougranis under the code name «A Rocco.» Earlier this week, Mantelis testified that 200,000 German marks (around 100,000 euros) were deposited into Tsougranis’s Swiss account in November 1998 by Siemens Hellas. Documents related to the case suggest that cash deposited into the Swiss account had come from a slush fund used to pay off politicians and public officials to secure public contracts. Tsougranis is expected to be charged as an accomplice to money laundering over the next few days. In a related development, the main opposition New Democracy party called for Costas Simitis, who was premier when Mantelis was transport minister, to be summoned by the investigative committee. On Thursday, Simitis expressed «sadness and outrage» at Mantelis’s statement. Reacting to ND’s calls for Simitis to testify, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis remarked, «Targeting specific individuals in order to create an impression can sometimes hinder the search to uncover the truth.»

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