Greek ex-minister admits hefty Siemens payment
A Greek former minister has admitted taking a hefty payout from German electronics giant Siemens in an ongoing parliamentary probe into bribes paid to politicians in return for contracts.
Former Socialist transport and telecoms minister Tassos Mantelis told a parliamentary committee he had accepted 200,000 deutschmarks (now worth around 100,000 euros) from Siemens in 1998, a justice source said Thursday.
Mantelis said the money had been paid into a Swiss bank account as a "campaign donation". He added that a second sum of 225,000 deutschmarks was paid into the same account by an unknown donor in 2000.
The Supreme Court on Thursday pressed money laundering charges against Mantelis and forbade him from leaving the country but news reports said the former minister, who is believed to be working as an advisor to the government of Azerbaijan, had already fled.
Siemens paid out 1.3 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars) in bribes to foreign officials in exchange for landing lucrative contracts between 2000 and 2006, making it the biggest scandal in corporate German history.
A number of former Siemens executives have agreed to pay damages in out-of-court settlements.
In Greece, Siemens officials are accused of bribing local politicians and senior officials at state telecoms operator OTE to bag a multi-million-euro contract before the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Mantelis, whose ministry had overall responsibility for OTE at the time, is the second former Socialist official to admit taking money from Siemens.
Two years ago, a close aide of former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Theodoros Tsoukatos, said he had accepted a million deutschmarks on the Socialist Pasok party's behalf, a claim the party later denied.
Former PM Simitis, who oversaw Greece's entry into the eurozone and costly preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games, issued a statement Thursday saying he was "grieved and angered that such acts incubated" during his 1996-2004 administration.
The scandal has also implicated the Greek conservatives but is currently harming the ruling Socialists whose leader, Prime Minister George Papandreou, has vowed to stamp out corruption amid a massive austerity drive to tame the country's debt and avoid bankruptcy.
© 2010 AFP