Greek Defense Ministry: Scandal, Inc.

ATHENS – Former Greek Defense Ministry official Antonis Kantas provided more damning information about how the agency was used as a treasure chest by corrupt officials and businessmen who used it to rob taxpayers with dirty deals in contracts from foreign arms manufacturers.

Finishing his long testimony before magistrates Gavriil Mallis and Yiannis Stavropoulos, Kantas detailed the role of two businessmen in the alleged payment of bribes to Greek officials as well as what was said to be a mountain of information about kickbacks paid to secure procurement contracts as well as the names of several more suspects, some of whom could be called to give depositions before the end of the year, unnamed sources told the newspaper Kathimerini.

Kantas reportedly explained how under-the-table payments were made to secure the purchase of German-made Leopard tanks and Type 214 submarines. He also gave background to the deals to buy the German and Swedish-made ASRAD vehicle-mounted short-range air defense system, as well as the Russian-made Kornet missiles and launchers.

He gave details on how money ended up in accounts he had opened after being transferred from Swiss and German bank accounts. Sources said the retired official also described how a middleman left a suitcase containing 600,000 euros in cash in his office on one occasion.

Magistrates already knew about one of the men alleged to be involved as he was a representative for German companies Rheinmetall and Atlas Elektronik, who reportedly will be called before the magistrates.

Kantas was the deputy head of procurements at the ministry between 1996 and 2002. He has admitted that he received around 16 million dollars that had been stashed away in Singapore and Switzerland in return for helping to agree at least 10 arms deals.

He served under Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who has been jailed for laundering the kickbacks he received, and, briefly, Yiannos Papantoniou, who succeeded Tsochatzopoulos, who prosecutors said stole hundreds of millions of euros through contract deals. Papantoniou is being prosecuted on charges of failing to declare his wealth as required by Greek law.