NEWS

Siemens probe nears end

The parliamentary committee investigating claims that Siemens Hellas paid bribes to Greek public officials and politicians to secure state contracts hopes to wrap up its work by the end of September, paving the way for Parliament to order a preliminary judicial probe into the affair. Sources said yesterday that both PASOK and New Democracy want the panel of MPs to finish questioning witnesses over the next two weeks, so a final report into the work they have carried out over the past few months can be compiled. It is not yet clear if the five parties represented on the committee will submit a joint report or whether each grouping will want to provide its own recommendations to Parliament. The deputies began the investigation at the end of January but have yet to question the key witness in the case, former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos. They have made several bids to go to Germany to interview him but each attempt has been aborted. The German courts last year rejected Greece’s request to extradite Christoforakos. The MPs also want to speak to two other Germany-based ex-Siemens executives but it appears unlikely that they will able to do this over the next couple of weeks. The committee is set to call the CEO of the Intracom telecommunications systems group, Sokratis Kokkalis, for questioning next week about his company’s alleged links to Siemens. The panel yesterday questioned former Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who denied claims he met with Christoforakos 35 times while in office. The ex-Siemens CEO had noted that number of meetings in his diary but the ex-minister said that they only met two or three times. He said the meetings did not take place in a positive climate. Alogoskoufis also insisted that he had not been in any position to influence whether Siemens was awarded public contracts with the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and OTE Telecom. In the other major parliamentary investigation – into the Vatopedi land exchange – New Democracy yesterday walked out of proceedings with no apparent intention of returning. The conservatives accused PASOK of leading a witch hunt against former ND ministers.