Greek minister says German firms encouraged corruption

30th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Greek defence minister Wednesday charged German enterprises with encouraging corruption in his country over a long period, citing alleged bribery in a deal to buy submarines from the Ferrostaal firm.

"There is an annoying problem ... which is that at a certain period all the big German companies dealing with the Greek state were creating a problem," Evangelos Venizelos told a radio station.

He named the Siemens group, involved in a high-profile corruption scandal in the early 2000s, the Ferrostaal company and its former parent company MAN.

"Our European partners should help us monitor the application of transparency rules, which are not violated uniquely or mainly in Greece, but above all in the countries of origin of the entreprises," he said.

He observed that "German law has since changed" and reckoned that the acts of corruption, which notoriously went unpunished in Greece, were "alas not punished in Germany either."

Venizelos launched his accusations while acknowledging that the order of four Type 214 submarines concluded and then extended under the previous Socialist governmnents of Costas Smitis between 1996 and 2004 were "clearly" tarnished by suspicions of corruption.

He cited "elements" provided by a German legal investigation into Ferrostaal, and a report by the Greek financial authorities which, according to press reports, calculated that $140 million in bribes had been paid.

A preliminary inquiry was launched by the Greek legal authorities but in view of the supposed involvement of former ministers, one of them identified by newspapers as the Socialist former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, the case has to be sent to the parliament.

Greece only accepted delivery of the submarines in March 2010 to guarantee the survival of one of its shipyards and after long negotiations with the German authorities. It had blocked delivery in 2006, claiming problems in the construction of the first, the Papanikolis.

© 2011 AFP

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