Convicted Ex-Minister Claims Donation

ATHENS  – A former Greek Transport Minister convicted of receiving a bribe from the German company Siemens told a court that it was a campaign donation.

Tasos Mantelis made the claim Dec. 2 although he held an appointed office for which he didn’t have to campaign.

Mantelis was given a three-year suspended prison term in 2011 over the payment of 450,000 Deutsche marks (about 230,000 euros), a verdict that was upheld by the Supreme Court in February of last year.

His testimony was heard by a criminal appeals court and he gave the same line of defense that didn’t work before.

He said the money was for a 1998 pre-election campaign although there was no election that year and ministers don’t run for office. He said there was talk, however, that there might have been snap elections.

The money was said to have been given him after Siemens secured the so-called 8002 contract to digitize OTE telecom’s network in 1997. Mantelis noted that the OTE contract was signed in 1997, before he assumed his post as minister.

Mantelis is expected to elaborate when his trial resumes on Dec. 8.

A court hearing the trial of dozens of suspects implicated in the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal began Nov. 27 but was postponed because only 15 of the 64 defendants showed up, a common delaying procedure in Greece which doesn’t force people facing charges to appear.