Probe fails to come up with new evidence

The deputies investigating the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal called on the financial crimes squad to conduct more thorough research into whether the company had paid off politicians and public officials, after dismissing the information presented to the inquiry yesterday. The head of the financial crimes squad, Yiannis Kapeleris, had promised to impress the MPs yesterday with the information his officers had recovered but little of it turned out to be new. It mostly consisted of lists of politicians and other figures who had either bought electrical equipment from Siemens on favorable terms or had been gifted it. The members of the parliamentary committee said that most of this was already known to them and that it paled into insignificance in comparison to the large bribes Siemens is alleged to have paid. «The lemon squeezers, eggcups and company gifts simply create a distraction at a time when we are looking for 100 million euros in bribes that are connected to the signing of contracts with OTE telecom, the Hellenic Railways Organization [OSE] and the C4I security package [for the 2004 Olympics],» said New Democracy lawmaker Stavros Kalafatis. The parliamentary inquiry has failed to make any headway since former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis admitted two weeks ago that he accepted money from Siemens while he was a member of the PASOK government. Mantelis is due to appear today before a council of appeals court judges, which will decide whether the bribery charges against him should stand or whether they are subject to the statute of limitations for ex-ministers. Within the next 10 days, a third prosecutor is expected to be assigned to the judicial investigation into the Siemens scandal.