SYRIZA Law Downgrades Bribery Charges in Siemens Scandal

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Alexandros Zontanos)

ATHENS – A Greek prosecutor has recommended that 22 of 54 defendants in the long-running Siemens scandal be charged not with bribery but money laundering, under a last-minute law passed by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA downgrading some charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.

That includes going easy on bribery after the party said it would root out corruption and toughen laws only to make them softer despite then-Premier Alexis Tsipras claiming – without any evidence – that 10 rival politicians took bries from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.

The prosecutor, Eleni Skeparnia, noted that the new code changes the charge of active bribery to a misdemeanor, said Kathimerini, as she also said Theodoros Tsoukatos, a one-time aide to former socialist premier Costas Simitis. Tsoukatos, should be acquitted although admitting taking 1 million German marks ($511,291 on behalf of the former PASOK party he said was a campaign donation, not a bribe.

But Skeparnia said former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos, to be found guilty of money laundering. He went to Germany to escape prosecution and courts there have refused to extradite him, while ordering him to live there permanently.

The trial of dozens of suspects in the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal has been repeatedly postponed over the last decade as public attention has wanted in what was said to be one of the country’s biggest scandals when it began.

The Siemens bribery scandal involved deals between the German engineering giant and Greece’s public telecommunications company OTE regarding security systems and purchases in the 1990s and leading up to the 2004 Athens Olympics.

In October, 2018, Prodromos Mavridis, former telecommunications manager for Siemens Hellas, denied in court having paid politicians from a slush fund to secure state contracts as the long-running saga of the scandal went on.

Mavridis claimed that the managing board of the parent company in Germany had tried to put the responsibility on him fund he said was in Switzerland.

He said he has been cleared in six court court cases of a range of charges from bribery to breach of faith in Germany and Switzerland.

Most of his testimony was about a contract for Siemens to digitize the network of OTE telecom, the state provider, but he said the Greek company didn’t have any losses from the contract, said Kathimerini.