Mantelis pleads his case

Tasos Mantelis, the former transport and telecommunications minister who admitted accepting money from Siemens Hellas, insisted in court yesterday that the cash was a donation for his participation in the 2000 election campaign and not a bribe. Two weeks after he told a parliamentary committee that Siemens had deposited 200,000 German marks (about 100,000 euros) into the Swiss bank account of his best man in 1998, Mantelis appeared before a council of appeals court judges which will decided whether he should be prosecuted for his actions. The former minister denied that he was paid the cash for his part in securing a lucrative contract for Siemens with OTE telecom and insisted that the money «was not given ahead of or because of the awarding of a contract to Siemens for the supply of telecommunications material but as a donation for future parliamentary elections.» Mantelis said that he did not negotiate the contract with Siemens, claiming that the deal had already been agreed upon before he took up his ministerial post. However, the ex-minister was unable to explain a later payment of 250,000 marks into the same account. Mantelis said that he did not know who deposited the money but that it was one-and-a-half months before the general elections in 2000. His lawyer, Yiannis Ireotis, said the former minister has no case to answer. «There is no evidence [that he was bribed]. The charge cannot stand. According to the law, donations are not illegal.» The judges will now decide whether there are any charges for Mantelis to answer and, if so, whether the statute of limitations applies, which would mean that he can no longer face prosecution. Meanwhile, the secretary of former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos provided yesterday the two prosecutors investigating the bribery scandals with the names of politicians that the executive met in a bid to secure a contract for his company with the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE). Katerina Tsakalou gave information about when and with whom the meetings took place but was not in a position to provide details about their content as she was not present during the discussions.