Siemens probe moving apace

The judicial probe and the parliamentary investigation into the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal are to intensify over the next few days, as a third prosecutor will be assigned to the case, and former ministers are due to be scrutinized more closely. Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes has requested that appeals court judges meet today to appoint one more official to investigate allegations that the Greek branch of Siemens paid bribes to politicians and civil servants. Two prosecutors, Maria Nikolakea and Yiannis Fiorakis, were appointed to the investigation last year after several years of ineffective investigation by other officials. Yesterday, appeals court prosecutor Yiannis Sakellakos ordered that the best man of former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis, who has admitted accepting money from Siemens, be barred from leaving the country. Mantelis told MPs last month that Siemens paid the equivalent of 100,000 euros into the account of his best man, Giorgos Tsougranis, in 1998. Tsougranis now faces charges of money laundering. Tsougranis told the parliamentary committee investigating the affair that two deposits were made into the account he opened on behalf of Mantelis, amounting to a total of just over 200,000 euros. Mantelis failed to disclose from where the second deposit originated. Both Tsougranis and Mantelis, who insists that the Siemens money was a campaign contribution and not a bribe, are due to be called for questioning by Nikolakea and Fiorakis by the end of the month. Mantelis’s former assistant, Aristides Mantas, is also likely to be invited to testify. The parliamentary committee also indicated yesterday that it is not willing to waste any time in gathering further information, as it announced that it would ask all ministers who were involved in approving contracts with Siemens from 1997 onward to voluntarily hand over all their bank details to the panel of deputies. If any ministers refuse to cooperate, then the committee will begin legal proceedings against them in order to obtain the details. The proposal was put forward by New Democracy MP Costas Tzavaras, who yesterday submitted to the panel documents that indicated Siemens had deposited 37.5 million euros in foreign bank accounts in connection to the agreement of a lucrative contract with OTE telecom.