Greek politicians named in corruption probe

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Greek deputies investigating alleged bribes paid by the German telecommunications company Siemens have named serving and former ministers from both main political parties.

But the lawmakers from the ruling socialists (PASOK) and the main opposition conservatives New Democracy (ND) have been unable to agree on a common list of suspects, prompting media scorn on Friday.

Pro-government Ethnos daily spoke of a "fiasco" and fellow-minded Ta Nea saw a "farce" while liberal Kathimerini daily said that the deadlock betrayed "political games" lacking substance.

A parliamentary committee set up to investigate the allegations late on Thursday reported back after a year's work, naming 15 ministers or former ministers from the two parties.

The socialists named five former members of of their own party and seven of their conservative colleagues; the conservatives named only socialists, including former prime minister Costas Simitis.

The conservatives also named Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.

In any case, only three former ministers, conservatives Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Christos Markoyannakis and a socialist, Tassos Mantelis, can be prosecuted.

A law that provides a short statute of limitations for ministers means the others cannot be pursued.

Siemens paid out 1.3 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in bribes to foreign officials in exchange for landing lucrative contracts between 2000 and 2006, making it the biggest scandal in corporate German history.

In Greece, the company handed out some 100 million euros in kickbacks according to German press reports.

Only two Greek officials, former minister Mantelis and onetime Pasok political strategist Theodoros Tsoukatos have admitted taking Siemens money.

The former said it was a personal campaign donation while the latter said he took the payment on behalf of PASOK, which the ruling party denies.

Three former Siemens executives managed to flee Greece before they could be prosecuted.

© 2011 AFP

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