Mantelis to go to court

The only former minister who has admitted so far to accepting money from Siemens Hellas will face further questioning as part of a judicial investigation after a council of judges decided yesterday that the charges against him are not subject to the statute of limitations. Ex-Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis appeared before a council of appeals court judges earlier this week to confirm that he accepted at least 100,000 euros from Siemens in 1998. However, he insisted that the payment was an election campaign donation and not a bribe. Mantelis argued he had not broken any laws and that, even if there was a case to answer, the five-year statute of limitations for ministers would apply. But in a ruling made public yesterday, the judges said that the charges of bribery and money laundering against Mantelis still stand. This means the two prosecutors investigating the Siemens cash-for-contracts affair will invite Mantelis to answer more questions about his alleged involvement in the process. The former minister first made his admission about receiving money from Siemens before a parliamentary committee that is also probing the scandal. Yesterday, the panel of MPs heard from another ex-PASOK minister, Costas Skandalidis, who told the deputies that in the buildup to the Athens 2004 Olympics, he received a document from Siemens Hellas extolling the virtues of a security system that the company was trying to sell to the Greek government in partnership with American firm SAIC. Case documents indicated that ex-Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos asked one of his managers to promote the security package, known as C4I, to three ministers, Skandalidis, Yiannos Papantoniou and Akis Tsochatzopoulos. Skandalidis, who was interior and public order minister, said that he received the document before a meeting of the Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) in February 2003 when the question of which security system would be purchased was discussed. He said he was not influenced by the document, nor did he receive any payment from Siemens and that the final decision on which package to buy was made at a subsequent KYSEA meeting which he did not attend. Tsochatzopoulos issued a statement yesterday saying that he did not receive any communication from Siemens.