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Acquittals in 13 Million Euro Greek Defense Contract Bribery Case

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Michalis Karagiannis)

ATHENS – In more acquittals for high-ranking officials and business leaders in a number of corruption cases in Greece over the years, executive Thomas Liakounakos, former General Secretary for Procurements at the Ministry of Defense Yannis Sbokos and Monaco-based British lawyer and businessman Peter Coleridge, a Liakounakos collaborator, were found innocent of bribery and money laundering.

That was in a 1999 case – prosecutions in Greece can take decades – with an Appeals Court Prosecutor recommending they get off, said Kathimerini, although no reason was given.

The case concerned the sale of four Erieye Airborne Early Warning and Control systems by Swedish company Ericsson Microwave that were mounted on Brazilian Embraer early warning aircraft.

The total deal – the acquisition of the four aircraft and the radar systems – was valued at $500 million and, according to accusation, bribes of $13 million were paid to Greek officials with no explanation if they kept the money or where it is.

The court convicted hristos Toumbas, Ericsson Microwave’s agent in Greece, and Swiss banker Jean-Claude Oswald, guilty, and they were sentenced to 3 and 6 years, but Oswald had skipped the country after breaking an ankle bracelet in November, 2018 and got away scot-free.

Sbokos, a close friend and collaborator of then-Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who was jailed for stealing from defense contracts but let out after saying he didn't feel well and was soon spotted eating lobster spaghetti at a seaside restaurant with his wife.

She had also been jailed but was released after saying she was a mother and needed to be home. 

Sbokos had been sentenced to 10 years for the same case by a lower court and to 22 years for bribery in another case but was freed in January 2020, after serving 7 years and 4 months of that other sentence.

In November, 2019 – some 14 years after an investigation began into a 1997 bribery scandal concerning the German engineering giant Siemens – 42 of 64 defendants were acquitted in a 70-million-euro ($85.37 million) bribery case.

It's never said where the stolen money went or if any was recovered and this case centered on bribes allegedly paid by the company to Greece's then state-owned Telecoms provider OTE. Ten defendants died during the investigation.

Oswald was also involved in this case and found guilty but was long gone by the time of the verdicts with no report where he is.

The court cleared Theodoros Tsoukatos, a consultant to former prime minister Kostas Simitis who admitted taking 1 million Deutschmarks on behalf of the former PASOK party as a “campaign donation,” alleged to be a bribe.

It took so long to prosecute him the statue of limitations had expired but he claimed he was vindicated after “taking the political responsibility and telling the truth.” Five defendants were cleared under a law passed at that time by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA downgrading penalties for bribes.