Go-between for Siemens charged

Criminal charges were leveled yesterday against a businessman who admitted to MPs that he had received and passed on money from the slush fund that Siemens Hellas allegedly operated to bribe Greek politicians and public officials. The appeals prosecutor’s office charged Pantelis Karacostas, a qualified civil engineer, with bribery and money laundering and banned him from leaving the country. On Thursday, Karacostas had told the deputies on the parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens scandal that in 1998, a deposit of 200,000 German marks was paid into his Swiss bank account, allegedly by Siemens Hellas executive Ilias Georgiou. The committee hearings take place behind closed doors but some of the deputies, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Karacostas was instructed to pass the money on, after keeping a 5 percent commission for himself, to someone who did not want to be traced. He did not reveal the identity of this person. After Karacostas gave evidence, the parliamentary committee informed judicial authorities and asked for charges to be issued. It also emerged during his questioning that the payment was made into Karacostas’s account on the same day that exactly the same amount was paid into a Swiss bank account that belonged to a relative of then Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis, the only politician to be charged so far for accepting money from Siemens. Mantelis is due to face an investigating magistrate on Monday to respond to questions about two payments totaling 450,000 marks that went into his relative’s account. The ex-minister denies that they were bribes. He insists they were donations toward his campaign for re-election as an Athens MP.