The scandal behind the scandal

Institutions have come under strain in the past, but this time are at breaking point. When the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal broke out in Germany, Greece’s judicial authorities dragged their feet. Recently, former Siemens Hellas managing CEO Michalis Christoforakos and general manager Christos Karavelas fled abroad, being able to do so on account of a series of omissions on the part of magistrates. Magistrate Nikos Zagorianos was not subjected to disciplinary action, but continues to operate in a manner that compromises the authority of his office. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros referred to OTE telecom’s former deputy CEO, Giorgos Skarpelis, as being «in custody» when he had not yet appeared in court, which gives rise to suspicion that political influence is being exercised. As too does the belated briefing of the judiciary by the foreign ministry regarding the communique from Greece’s ambassador in Montevideo. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis described the incident as diplomatic failure. But the communique had since Saturday afternoon reached her office as well as those of other top officials and Foreign Ministry General Secretary Aristidis Agathoklis has tried to sweep the matter under the carpet. Even if we accept that the political administration was not briefed over the weekend, it was certainly informed on Monday morning. In other words, there was enough time to prevent Karavelas from fleeing. But this never happened. Was it a deliberate omission or criminal negligence? Either way, the prime minister must take responsibility. The fact is that Siemens bribed parties to get state contracts. George Papandreou has proposed an in-depth investigation, despite PASOK’s involvement. Costas Karamanlis rejected such an inquiry, perhaps expecting that future disclosures might hurt the socialists more. Time will tell whether reports that a leading conservative official is implicated in the scandal are accurate.