ATHENS – Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou ordered an investigation into the finances of the collapsed PASOK Socialists after a former party leader said private companies provided funding to cover campaign costs.
Theodoros Tsoukatos, who was a close aide to Prime Minister Costas Simitis in the 1990s, claimed PASOK received about 16 billion drachmas ($4.68 million) in the run-up to the general elections of 2000 from private companies which he refused to name, the state-run ANA-MPA news agency said.
He said the money was used to pay for the transport of voters with planes, boats and buses, for ads in media, for campaign rallies, printing of flyers and other costs and that it was a common practice he alleged is being used by other parties to this day.
PASOK and the New Democracy Conservatives it served as a junior partner in a former coalition, also owe banks 250 million euros in loans not being fully repaid, with the bank officers given immunity and with no accounting of where the money has gone.
Despite the bank loans and alleged private fundings, PASOK was unable to pay rent on its former headquarters and there’s no indication on how the money was spent as parties don’t have to provide accounting even for taxpayer subsidies.
PASOK went bust after supporting austerity measures antithetical to its alleged principles but a veteran lawmaker, Fofi Gennimata, has emerged to lead a center-left coalition, the Movement for Change that barely registers in polls anymore.
Tsoukatos was testifying in the long-running Siemens scandal which looks into claims that the Greek branch of the giant German electronics company bribed politicians and public officials to secure state contracts.
Tsoukatos admitted to having met with the former CEO of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, in 1999 and for having accepted a payment of 1 million German marks, or the equivalent of about 500,000 euros, on PASOK’s behalf.
Christoforakos fled to Germany in 2009 and local courts have refused to extradite him to Greece which didn’t press the case with Germany putting up the bulk of 326 billion euros ($368.94 million) in three international bailouts.
The case will be handled by the head of the economic prosecutor’s office, Marianna Psaroudaki, reports said as she is already investigating the funding of Greek political parties who enjoy favorable borrowing from taxpayers who fund their campaigns.
Tsoukatos reportedly said one of his greatest mistakes was not fighting private funding of parties by businesses, as he said he should have done because it’s still going on unchecked in what amounts to politicians having wide access to money.