OPINION

Wanted: Clean deals

The general director of a Russian defense contractor which conducted an investigation into the embezzlement of tens of billions of dollars from arms sales to Greece and his closest associate in that inquiry were assassinated on the same day in Moscow. The $73 million in offsets that the Russian contractors were due to send to Greece still had not been received after four years. No one expressed any concern over the delay. The Russian in charge of the offset appeared to have placed $45 billion in a bank in Montenegro, $16 million in a Moscow bank and another $16 million in offshore banks on the Cayman Islands, a tax haven, and was placed under house arrest by a Moscow prosecutor. We are once again faced with a murky case concerning Greek arms procurements – the purchase of TOR-M1 short range surface-to-air missile systems, back in 1991, for half a billion dollars. It is up to the police and judicial authorities to clarify whether some of the tens of millions of dollars that have been found in scattered bank accounts (instead of being spent on offsets) belong to the Greek associates of the Russian underworld in kickbacks for their contribution to the missiles deal. However, the case also raises fundamental political issues beyond the dirty money that is obviously involved in this case. It is scandalous that the secrecy surrounding Greece’s arms procurements is perpetuated in the name of protecting national interests. These days one can easily have access and detailed knowledge of another country’s arsenal. Still, the Greek authorities are trying to keep this information from the public so as to facilitate illicit deals. This is not just about the kickbacks. Worse, in order to make money, some people burden the people and the national economy with unnecessary or inappropriate weapons deals. They create artificial needs and charge Greece trillions of drachmas – all for their own gain. We must finally do away with the middlemen who interfere with arms procurements. Their role is superfluous as a state’s legal procurements are, for the most part, based on bilateral agreements. Transparency is the only solution to these problems. Transparency is the greatest enemy of all those obscure figures and the murky environment that breeds them.