Siemens to stay put in Greece

The German engineering and electronics giant Siemens yesterday denied reports that it is in the processes of shutting down operations in Greece due to declining business on the back of the company being at the center of the cash-for-contracts scandal. Siemens Hellas, the Greek branch of the German firm, employs nearly 1,000 people and it was reported that the process to make these employees redundant had begun as part of a plan to leave the country. However, Siemens, which has been doing business in Greece for more than 100 years, said in a statement yesterday that it has no intention of ceasing operations even though the company’s image has been severely tarnished by the alleged involvement of former executives in bribing public officials and politicians. «Nevertheless, the cooperation Siemens has displayed in trying to resolve the case is proof that we want light to be shed on any unanswered questions and to continue our operations in this country without any further hindrance,» Siemens Hellas said. The company’s rebuff came as it emerged that the Court of Audit is considering asking former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis to pay back 450,000 German marks (just under 300,000 euros today) which he was allegedly paid by Siemens in 1998 and 1999. Mantelis is the only politician so far who has admitted accepting money from the company for his own personal use, although he argues that it was a campaign donation, not a bribe. The court is likely to argue that the payments, regardless of whether they were a donation or not, were illegal and as such Mantelis should pay this amount into the public coffers. This would be the latest in a series for setbacks for the ex-minister, who is to stand trial for money laundering.